NOT many Nigerians may be aware or conscious of the fact that Business mogul and African richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote will be clocking 59 years on planet earth on Sunday April 10 having been born in the ancient town of Kano state on April 10, 1957.
If they do, some will be falling over themselves in readiness for the birthday bash even though the celebrant has not made public his plans for the day.
However, for reasons ranging from the lingering fuel crisis that has brought most businesses to standstill and inflicting socio-economic dislocations, most citizens who have had to contend with constant electricity cuts may not give a hoot about what happens.
These challenges- fuel scarcity and epileptic power supply, herculean as they may appear, may be substantially addressed in the next 33 months going by recent promises of Nigeria’s first billionaire and his business conglomerate, Dangote Group on the issues.
Certainly they have given the people a ray of hope in the face of biting hardship.
Specifically, Nigerians have been assured that come December 2018 when the ongoing $14billion Dangote Refinery located in Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos State with the capacity to refine 650million liters of crude oil per day (mpd) is expected to come on stream, their decades-long suffering associated with fuel crisis will end.
In other words, the country, going by the projection, not only will be saved of her hard-earned foreign exchange running into trillions of dollars spent over the years in importing petroleum products especially premium motor spirit, petrol and diesel when Nigeria would have become self-sufficient and be exporting such products and earning foreign currencies and creating hundreds of jobs in the process
According to The Dangote Group’s spokesman, “Though the domestic market is big enough, we want to satisfy the market and serve other countries through petroleum products’ exportation. We will be saving foreign exchange for the country by refining locally, and we will also be generating foreign exchange for the country from proceeds generated from product exports”.
Beyond that, Dangote’s birthday is coming at a time that the power situation in the country has even degenerated so much so that the Federal Government had to apologize to Nigerians recently and promised to deliver 10,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by 2019, when a new administration is expected to take charge.
Sadly, before the apology by President Muhammadu Buhari, electricity supply nationwide had dropped to a meager 2,800 megawatts, which is said to be the lowest in nearly two years.
Prior to that public apology and promise, Dangote had apparently without any prodding from any quarter, promised that his group should be able to generate and deliver about 12000 megawatts of electricity for Nigeria come 2018, a target that is higher than the one set by the government.
So, the big lesson that should be learnt here especially by the high and mighty, is that rather than bemoan our situation or wait endlessly for the power generating companies, GENCOs and distribution companies, DISCOs, for a solution, they should emulate the Dangote Group with government providing the enabling environment to address the appalling power situation that is the lot of the country.
Not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Aliko had at an early age in life demonstrated promising skills in enterprise in his home state of Kano before venturing on to national scale.
And like a mustard seed, his businesses have transformed into a pan- African empire, thus becoming the global brand of every black man and having a net worth of $16.7billion according to the latest ranking of US based Forbes Magazine.
Though he studied business at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Dangote’s business accomplishments and acumen no doubt can match if not surpass his peers who were privileged to have schooled in some of the world’s leading tertiary institutions like Harvard University and London Business School in the United Kingdom among others.
As the story has been told, his maternal grandfather, the late Alhaji Sanusi Dantata provided him with a small capital to start his own business, as was the practice then.
But not only did he make the best of the opportunity in starting a thriving business in Kano, trading in commodities and also building supply chains, Dangote moved to Lagos in June 1977 and persisted in trading in cement and other commodities, recording great successes in terms of huge profits and increase in business activities before incorporating two companies in 1981.
And if the successes and socio-economic impact on the citizenry by the group under his watch is anything to go by, one can safely conclude that such giddy heights could not have been attained overnight but by dint of hard work, fear of God, tenacity of purpose, a firm belief in time tested virtues of integrity, honesty and punctuality.
Dangote today, has as a matter of fact become an epitome of these attributes, the second largest employer of labor after the Federal Government and a household name across the country.
According to statistics, the group has become the largest conglomerate in West Africa and one of the largest on the African continent, generated gross revenue in excess of US$3 billion in 2015 as well as one of the leading diversified business conglomerates in Africa that provides direct employment to more than 26,000 people.
Besides, “its current interests include cement, sugar, flour, salt, pasta, beverages and real estate, with new projects in development in the oil and natural gas, telecommunications, fertilizer and steel. The Group focuses on provision of local, value-
added products and services that meet the needs of the African population. Dangote Cement, the largest cement production company in Africa, with a market capitalization of almost US$14 billion on the Nigeria Stock Exchange, has subsidiaries in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia”, among others.
Though African richest, Dangote, to any that had encountered him, is humble and claims in past media interviews that his motivation in business is fired by desire to excel and not craze for wealth that has almost become the norm. “I’m not in it (business) for the money. No, no…I like to run a business that is successful, I’m a very creative person, I’m very simple”, he was quoted as saying.
Perhaps the most amazing of his success story which anybody can easily discern is the uncommon abiding faith in the African economy or how else to explain taking the risk and going the extra mile setting up businesses in countries where investments flow before now were considered dangerous, creating jobs and empowering the people.
For this, he has a ready answer: “Africans must begin to take responsibilities by shaping the condition of its people”, adding that “If you give me today $5 billion, I will not invest any outside the continent, I will invest everything here… Let us put heads together and work.”
Dangote in precepts and deeds therefore, has proven to the world that everything good can come out of Nigeria and indeed Africa; that in spite of all challenges, the black man can succeed in his chosen endeavor without having to rely heavily on the capitalist West.
Indeed he has substantially rubbished perception by many that the continent is full of fraudsters, all-consuming, and can’t venture into major manufacturing apart from oil and gas exploitation which are handled mostly by multi-national companies.
Another take from this is that public office holders in Africa and business leaders instead of stashing their funds in foreign accounts as has been the practice before now, should emulate the patriotic example set by the business icon and embrace his business models and invest wisely in their respective countries to raise the living standard of the people.
The era of going cap in hand to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund begging for foreign loans should be done away with.
Also worth mentioning ahead of the Sunday’s celebration is the millions of lives directly touched by the group through its philanthropy arm, Dangote Foundation which over the years makes whooping donations running into billions of Naira to the needy and vulnerable including victims of natural disasters like flooding, inferno, women and children across Africa.
Besides, indigent students of communities where its industries are sited get annual scholarships, such social amenities as electricity, potable water and health facilities.
Blocks of classrooms, well equipped laboratories are also provided to give succor to the geese that laid the golden egg and poverty alleviated.
A recipient of the nation’s second highest honour’s award, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, and a father of three, the business mogul believes strongly that human capital development is a sine qua non of any meaningful socio-economic attainment which is why his group established the Dangote Academy where various exceptional skills are impacted on the young generation to meet with modern day challenges.
But like every human, Dangote is not without critics who are quick to point out that his business empire has blossomed largely because of his cosy relationship with the past political leaders in the country and not to his business acumen. To these he has a clear message: “We have never taken advantage”.
For sure the celebrant is right as his success story is being replicated across the continent where Dangote Group has investment and in places where he has no direct link with the rulers.
Rather than get distracted, the business titan should remain focused and continue with his industrialization drive across Africa generating employment, empowering the people economically and live up to his top rating as business role model to teeming budding entrepreneurs who look up to him as such. Happy birthday Alhaji.