For obvious reasons, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man adorned the pages of Nigerian newspapers as he celebrated his 60th birthday.
The international businessman, who started business modestly trading in sugar in the late 70s and early 80s, now presides over an industrial octopus, with interest in agriculture, oil, cement, oil, fruit juice, noodles and many others.
Many prominent Nigerians have sent him congratulatory messages, with President Muhammadu Buhari, fittingly taking the lead.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement Sunday joined the business world, Dangote’s friends and family in congratulating the Forbes’ rated richest African and black man for reaching the diamond milestone.
Buhari noted Dangote’s patriotism and kind heartedness “in always making sacrifices to safeguard the health of the nation, most remarkably the polio and Ebola interventions”.
“The President believes the global business mogul remains a shining example of the virtues of choosing entrepreneurship from an early age, treading the path of diligence, perseverance and continuous learning to build some of the world’s largest manufacturing and distribution companies, with household names in Nigeria and beyond, “Buhari said in a statement by Mr. Femi Adesina, his media adviser.
President Buhari commended Dangote’s humility, simplicity and cosmopolitan outlook.
He especially remarked on how Dangote “defies ethnic and religious persuasions in extending support to the poor and vulnerable, providing employment opportunities without discrimination, while inspiring and mentoring young Nigerians to greatness.”
The President also acknowledged Dangote’s role in bolstering the economy through continuous engagement and counselling of governments on best practices in promoting the ease of doing business.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos, where Aliko had made his home since 1977, followed up in a well scripted tribute, describing Aliko as an inspiration to many people.
Tinubu commended the business mogul for his boldness and bravery in taking the business risks, which he said have now paid off.
The All Progressives National Congress (APC) national leader said Dangote has broken all business barriers and had helped to industrialise Africa, with the operations of his Dangote Group in 17 African countries and beyond.
The President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, also felicitated with the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote on the occasion of his 60th birthday.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki described Dangote as a business guru, philanthropist, role model, and Africa’s biggest industrialist.
“Alhaji, you are Nigeria’s flagbearer across Africa as you make success of different industries across the continent and we are proud of you,” the Senate President said, “It is our prayer that Almighty Allah (swt) will continue to endow you with more wisdom, great energy, good health and immeasurable grace to serve humanity for many more years.
“Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns.”
Aliko was born 10 April, 1957 in Kano into a very prominent business family. He is the great grand son of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, the richest African at the time of his death in 1955.
He had his early education in Kano and went to Al Azhar University in Cairo to study Business.
He cut his business teeth very early in life as he himself recalled: “I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets [sugar boxes] and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.”
The Dangote phenomenon however began in 1977, when he founded his trading company and then took the defining decision to relocate to Lagos.
His small trading firm grew in leaps and bounds.
Today,the Dangote Group is a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Dangote has expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and lately has ventured into tomato processing and rice cultivation and the biggest project of all, building Africa’s biggest petro-chemical refinery complex, near Lagos. The latter is a $9billion project and is scheduled to come on stream next year.
The Dangote Group dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is a major supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners.
In 40 years, the Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to being the largest industrial group in Nigeria, with its cement company representing 25% of the Nigerian stock value.
Aliko himself has an estimated net worth of US$12.5 billion and as at February was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 67th richest person in the world and the richest in Africa.
He peaked Forbe’s rich list as the 23rd richest person in the world in 2014.
*Part of this story was published yesterday. It was re-edited to fit the 60th anniversary of the celebrator, Aliko Dangote