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How Aliko Dangote – Africa’s Richest Man Made His Money

What are the business success secrets of Aliko Dangote? How did Aliko Dangote become a billionaire and the richest black man in the world? Well, i advice you read on to find the answers you seek.

Culling from a popular quote that says “if you want to be rich and successful, observe what the rich are doing and do the same.” I don’t know how effective this strategy can be but I feel there is an atom of truth in that statement.

Who is Aliko Dangote?

Aliko Dangote is a business magnate, whose business acumen and aggressiveness send fear into the mind of competitors. He is the richest man in Africa, the richest man in Nigeria and the richest black person in the world. This humble billionaire currently sits atop one of Africa’s largest conglomerate, the Dangote Group.

On the 9th of March 2011, Forbes magazine declared Aliko Dangote the richest black person in the world with a net worth of $13.8billion. It’s also worthwhile you know that Dangote is the 51th richest man in the world as at 9th March 2011. But this was not so 25 years ago.

Born on April 10, 1957 in Kano, state Nigeria, to the family of Muhammad Dangote and Hajiya Mariya Sanusi Dantata. He had his primary and secondary education in Kano before he proceeded to Alazahar University, Cairo, Egypt to obtain a degree. If not for the degree, he would probably have been on my list of the richest school drop out billionaires in the world.

It was while working under his uncle, Sani Dantata that he found his passion and began developing his business skills. After developing his business skills and building his confidence, he got a lot a loan of N500,000 (approximately $3,500 today) from his uncle in 1977 to start his own business. Aliko Dangote was also given a deadline of three years to repay the loan but he repaid the loan in three months.

Aliko Dangote started business by trading in commodities such as sugar, rice, salt, pasta, cotton, millet, vegetable oil, cocoa and textile. In the course of running his business, he developed strong business ethics and principles. One of Aliko Dangote’s business strategies for succeeding in the commodity market was to develop a strong distribution network and make the delivery of his goods faster than that of his competitors.

After gaining a strong hold on the commodities market, Aliko Dangote ventured into manufacturing and producing the same commodities he was importing. In an interview granted to a journalist by this billionaire, he stated that leaping from importation to manufacturing was his greatest business move.

Since he moved into manufacturing, Aliko Dangote has never looked back. His company (Dangote Group) controls over 13 other companies with most of them acquired through strategic mergers and acquisitions. In celebration of his 50th birthday anniversary in 2007, he commissioned a one billion dollar factory (Obajana Cement Factory), which happens to be the largest cement factory in Africa.

Today, his group is made up of:

  • Dangote Sugar Refinery (one of the most capitalized stocks on the Nigerian stock exchange),
  • Dangote Flour Mills (sold majority of his shares to Tiger Brands)
  • Dangote sacks
  • Dansa Foods
  • Dangote transport
  • Obajana Cement (Africa’s largest cement factory)
  • National Salt Company Of Nigeria (NASCON)
  • Benue Cement Company Plc
  • the Bachita Sugar Company
  • Dangote Cement
  • Blue Star Shipping
  • Blue Star Investment and so on.
  • Just recently, he boosted his philanthropic activities with the launch of his foundation (Dangote Foundation).

So if learning and understudying the rich can give us insights into their business success secrets and if building a business from scratch is your utmost priority, then I am sure we are definitely going to get some hard core business tips from this billionaire. Below are the ten small business success secrets of Aliko Dangote; the richest black man in the world.

10 Small Business Success Secrets of Aliko Dangote

1. Manufacture; don’t just trade

Aliko Dangote started business as a trader of commodities; he gathered business confidence and experience as he grew. In an interview granted, he openly admits that one of his greatest business moves was moving from being a trader to being a manufacturer. He summed it up by saying,

“Manufacture, don’t just trade. There is money in manufacturing even though it is capital intensive. To achieve a big breakthrough, I had to start manufacturing the same product I was trading on; which is commodities.”

I am an advocate of manufacturing because it does not only improve your business status, it also helps you give back to your community and country; with respect to job creation and economic development.

2. Build a brand, and don’t destroy it

This is the second small business success secrets of Aliko Dangote. Aliko Dangote is one of the firm believers of the “Brand Power” and this is what he has to say about it:

“To succeed in business, you must build a brand and never destroy it. One competitive advantage I had when I ventured into manufacturing was my brand “Dangote,” which I diligently built in the course of my trading commodities.” – Aliko Dangote

Sometime ago, Coca Cola’s assets were estimated to be worth $3billion but the brand name alone “Coca Cola” was valued at over $80billion. That’s the power of a brand. So why not start building a brand today? Your brand could be your saving grace in hard times; it could also turn out to be a very strong competitive advantage for your small business.

3. Sell cheap, give quality and don’t kill the competition

To build a successful business, Aliko Dangote emphasizes the importance of selling quality products at affordable price. Selling quality products at an affordable price helps in increasing customer’s loyalty. With respect to competition, Dangote has this to say;

“Don’t kill the competition. Competition is healthy for businesses. It keeps you the entrepreneur on your toes.” – Aliko Dangote

“There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest price possible, paying the highest wage possible.” – Henry Ford

4. Start small but dream big

“I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008 but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me thirty years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.” – Aliko Dangote

5. Have connections and pray for a big break

The next small business success secret is business connections. Aliko Dangote is respected for his strong network of business and political connections. You can build your connections and strengthen your network in the business world by increasing your corporate social responsibility, signing joint ventures and partnership deals, forming strategic alliances, attending business events and parties, making political donations and paying courtesy visits to those at the helm of affairs.

To survive in business, you must strengthen your business connections and network. And most importantly, you must pray for a big break. Big breaks are very vital to entrepreneurial survival. In fact, I can hardly point to any successful entrepreneur that wasn’t thrust upwards by a big breakthrough.

  • Bill Gates had his big break when he negotiated and signed a deal with IBM.
  • Aliko Dangote had his big break when he secured a license to import cement. Oprah Winfrey had hers when she started Harpo Studios Productions and acquired the full rights to her shows; “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
  • Li Ka Shing had his during a riot period and he began buying properties at rock bottom prices.
  • Larry Ellison had his when he secured a deal to build database software for the CIA. The list goes on and on.

So if you really want to take a giant stride in business, you must not only pray for a big break; you must seek it out and be prepared for it when it comes.

6. Believe there is money to be made in your country

Dangote believes one of the main prerequisite to building a successful business and ultimately becoming rich is developing a firm belief in your country. Dangote is a firm believer in his country Nigeria. He believes opportunities abound everywhere but it just takes a smart eye to see them. He encourages everyone to seek opportunities in their own country instead of seeking greener pastures in other countries.

7. All work and less play makes Jack a rich man

A popular saying goes “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but billionaire Dangote believes that all work and less play makes Jack a rich man. Hear him:

“I enjoy myself a lot but I derive more joy in working. I believe in hard work and one of my business success secrets is hard work. It’s hard to see a youth that will go to bed by 2am and wake up by 5am. I don’t rest until I achieve something.” – Aliko Dangote

My mentor has said it all but I want to add something crucial and that thing is this; “working hard alone doesn’t guarantee success, you must also work smart.

It is not really work if you are having fun.” – Pierre Omidyar

8. Give back to those who made you

I hope you are conversant with the saying that goes “no man is an island.” You can never get rich alone. There have to be contributing factors and individuals you will need to leverage upon. Dangote believes in the principle of “give and it shall be given unto you.” Just as stated above, one of the small business success secrets is this; you must give back to those who made you.

“No man becomes rich without himself enriching others.” – Andrew Carnegie

Now who are those who made you? These are individuals or entities you leveraged upon to get to the status you are now. They are those who gave you a helping hand when you needed it most. They could be those who gave you business contacts, connections and encouragement. They could be business associates, political associates, investors, loyal customers, good suppliers, political associates, your employees, business team, business partners and so on.

9. Obey the laws of the land

“Why risk going to jail by engaging in illegal businesses when it is easier to make money legally? – Rich dad

Dangote advises entrepreneurs to be law abiding citizens. He encourages everyone to do business as outline by the regulatory bodies. Obeying the laws of the land also entails keeping your credit and tax record clean. Nothing hurts more than striving to build a business empire only to have your assets impounded or frozen by the authorities. So do the right thing.

10. Business must flow in your blood

“After my death, I want to be remembered as Africa’s greatest industrialist.” – Aliko Dangote

Lastly, Aliko Dangote revealed that you must have business flowing in your blood if you really want to make it big as an entrepreneur. I solely agree with him. Look at all successful entrepreneurs, they seem to possess a different kind of spirit. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit.

To success in business, everything around you must smell business. That is to say you must think business, dream business and live for business. It’s all about the entrepreneurial spirit. The same spirit that kept Warren Buffett in the game even at old age, the same spirit that drives General Electric even after the death of its founder; Thomas Alva Edison.

Without this spirit, you will ultimately fail. Business flowing in your blood entails tenacity, doggedness, shrewdness and every single attribute required to keep you going in the game of entrepreneurship.


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