Born in 1957, Dangote grew up in an entrepreneurial household in Kano State, Nigeria. He was raised Muslim and lived an upper-class life. Dangote’s grandfather, Sanusi Dantata, was once named one of the wealthiest people living in Kano.
He made his fortune selling commodities like oats and rice. Dantata became Dangote’s guardian in 1965 after the death of his father.
Over the years, Dangote has expanded into new business segments, including telecommunications, real estate and steel manufacturing. Today his holding company, Dangote Group, is the largest conglomerate in West Africa.
Having spent much of his childhood with his grandfather, Dangote quickly became interested in the world of business. He once said, “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.”
At age 21, Dangote graduated from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, one of Islam’s prestigious universities. It was there the budding entrepreneur furthered his education in business.
Aliko Dangote was 21-year old when he borrowed $3,000 from his uncle to import and sell agricultural commodities in Nigeria, his native country. His business venture quickly became a success, and as a result, he managed to repay the entire loan within three months of starting operations. For the ninth year in a row, Dangote is the richest man in Africa in 2020, with an estimated net worth of $8.1 billion. The business empire he began to build more than three decades ago, Dangote Group, is one of the largest private-sector employers in Nigeria as well as the most valuable conglomerate in West Africa.
Dangote’s business interests encompass many industries, including oil and gas, consumer goods and manufacturing. About 80 of his conglomerate’s revenue comes from Dangote Cement. According to Forbes magazine, the subsidiary produces 44 million metric tons of cement every year and plans to increase output by 33 by 2020. Dangote also owns the world’s third-largest sugar refinery, and together all of his publicly traded companies make up a quarter of the market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.