Aliko Dangote is the chairman of Dangote Group of companies – which command a large share of Nigeria’s huge consumer market and are now expanding across sub-Saharan Africa. The man went to Al-Azhar University, Cairo and read business studies – a profession he already started practicing as a pupil selling sweets in primary school. He began to practice what he learned in the university in 1977 when he started trading in commodities and building materials in Kano.
Some unique attributes appear to underscore his outstanding success in the boardroom business. Company operation requires skill and expertise, which are what Dangote inherited from his family and again schooled in it formerly. Most graduates come out of schools without any idea of what to do with the skills they have acquired. Dangote knew how to apply his.
Some company directors failed in corporate governance because they did not understand the technicalities of the business they were directing and management capitalized on their ignorance to diddle shareholders. The reverse is the case for Dangote, who defined the strategic engagement of every business he has gone into.
The board chairman is the man on the driving wheel of the wealth building mission of shareholders. So, Dangote planted himself on both the creation and collection sides of company operations. He knows how to create wealth for shareholders and he simply positioned himself to be the largest shareholder receiving the wealth created.
Fortune has no excuse not to follow him, who is presently ranked Africa’s richest person. Dangote seems to be a living example that the way to riches is an indirect route – by serving others and adding value to society. This makes a quiet and motivating impression that actually needs to be noised around with a campaign drum in a society in which public treasury looting has reached a shameless proportion.
Dangote comes from a trading family in Kano that exported kola and ground nuts. This background is the little opportunity he has exploited and expanded to rule the Nigerian economy and beyond. He started small with commodities trading built around flour, sugar and salt and gradually expanded to cover the West Africa market.
The big opportunities known to be available to Nigeria as a nation are equally available to its people individually. Dangote is a typical case in point that the opportunities for people to break out into prosperity aren’t that far from them. How many people ignored the small businesses with which they were trained and proceeded to read courses they cannot apply in economic activity.
Nigeria’s large consumer market offers a fertile ground to build the biggest businesses. Despite the infrastructure challenge, it is an easy market for companies to ride on the back of a rapidly growing economy. Dangote keyed into this strategy and by the time Nigeria emerged Africa’s largest economy, he emerged with it as Africa’s richest person.
Dangote showed that it was possible to create wealth by serving others and that is exactly what shareholders everywhere mandate the chairman and the board to do on their behalf. Dangote has done this job quite well because he has demonstrated superior skills as the chief strategist. Hence, he knew how to navigate the business over the changing economic and political space – holding forth under the control regime of the military era and then flow again with deregulation and openness – when he expanded into manufacturing.
Dangote used a business model of dominating sectors protected from competition during the control regime. His strategy changed in the period of openness to import substitution so that low cost imports could not silence his industrial engines.
When he began to expand into manufacturing was at a time trade liberalization opened the doors to low cost imports in the mid 1980s. His winning formula are economy of scale and domineering market presence [wide distribution network] with which he drives prices down to levels that tilt the playing field and crush competitive rivals. In this way he has shut out foreign companies in the cement market among other businesses and put the biggest share of the market in his pocket.
With Dangote Cement, now Africa’s biggest cement producer, he is extending the competitive battle to claim the entire African market. The company is investing heavily beyond the Nigerian market and the regional market heartily welcomes the strategic low cost appeal in its effort to rebuild infrastructures.
Dangote industrial concerns comprise household names ranging from cement to processed foods and telecommunications. The Group’s publicly listed companies account for one-third of the Nigerian Stock Exchange’s market capitalization. Dangote Cement is the largest company listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange – annual sales approached half a trillion naira at the end of 2015.