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Meet Aliko Dangote; Africa’s richest man

World Economic Forum on Africa 2011 

Aliko Dangote is a man of his word. He lives in a world where 10 minutes is 10 minutes and a promise is a debt.
It’s no wonder then that Forbes magazine has ranked him as the richest man in Africa, not for one but for three years running, at an estimated Sh1.7 trillion.

But despite his being the first African to amass a USD20 billion fortune, far be it for him to value your time any less than he values his:

“I didn’t want to keep you waiting,” he told Capital FM News exactly 10 minutes after he’d said, “I’ll be with you in 10 minutes.”

He even put aside his visa application process in order to share with Capital FM News aficionados the secrets to his success and his plans to share his good fortune with Kenya.

But actions are louder than words and Dangote perhaps unwittingly shared his first words of wisdom when he challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta to issue five to 10 year visas to investors and elicited immediate action.

“I’m directing our Cabinet Secretary for the interior to make it possible for our investors to get five and 10 year visas,” President Kenyatta directed.

Less than an hour later, Dangote was receiving a five year visa to Kenya, “I could have gotten the 10 year visa but I’d probably never stay that long with a passport anyway.”

The practical man has amassed his fortune through various business interests across the continent, mostly dealing in cement, and he plans to extend those interests to Kenya.

“I’ve been accused of going to Tanzania, Zambia, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia but not Kenya but now that Kenya is home, we’re going to invest USD400 million in the Kitui region for cement.”

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As a major shareholder of the Nigerian bank Zenith, the mogul also plans to cut himself a slice of the Kenyan banking pie by setting up office in the country.

“I don’t want to call names but if you call XY from America or from somewhere, they will not understand what you’re talking about and they’ll end up asking you for so many things including your grandmother’s certificate of birth,” he teased.

His sense of humour aside, Dangote is a man who firmly believes that working together, Africans have every potential to lift their brother from the mire of poverty and turn around the fortunes of what has disreputably been known as the Dark Continent.

“The majority of the West was developed by their own entrepreneurs. They didn’t wait for the Chinese or for Koreans to come and develop their own economy so we have to do it.”

But how did the man who started out selling confectionary, albeit from a well-to-do family, end up as the 25th richest person in the world.

“It’s just persistency, hard work and determination but you know with all these things you need to have a vision and also strategy to achieve the vision. Boldness in taking a calculated risk in areas where people hardly go and invest,” he shared.

As a man who always has his eyes peeled for opportunity, Dangote has already set his sights on his next, “well thought out,” business opportunity.

“I’m sure you must have read in the news that two days ago we will be building a petrochemical and fertiliser refinery worth USD9 billion which we plan on finishing in 2016 which is a world record,” he said.

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The refinery backs Dangote’s belief that Africa needs to begin processing its raw material in order to reap its full benefits and Nigeria, which imports fuel even given its oil deposits, is set to benefit immensely from the investment.

Kenya as well given the 46 oil blocks recently discovered in the country, “I think it is something that will teach and also train your people here to understand how to do bidding for blocks, how to do quite a lot because we’ll be more open to tell you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do because we’ve gone through the cycle and being our fellow brothers and sisters we feel very much obliged.”

And now that the self-confessed record breaker considers Kenya family, it is definitely not the last time we’ll be hearing from the magnate, “It’s like we had a wedding reception this afternoon. So this is a relationship that we have and I definitely think this is a relationship that will outlive both of us.”

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