Nigeria may have more than its fair share of the poor but it has also produced some of Africa’s greatest entrepreneurs, whose combined wealth is estimated to be over $25bn. Tom Collins profiles some of them.
Commonly referred to as Africa’s richest man, Dangote is worth an estimated $12.5bn. He was born in 1957 in Kano to a wealthy family and is the great-grandson of Alhassan Dantata – the richest African at the time of his death in 1955.
In 1977 Dangote moved from North-Eastern Nigeria to Lagos and established a small trading firm. This firm is now known as the Dangote Group and dominates the sugar and cement market throughout Africa. Dangote has been a key driver in building refineries and manufacturing plants across the continent. He is currently building an oil refinery in Nigeria that will eliminate the country’s costly oil imports when finished in 2019.
Born in 1953, Mike Adenuga is estimated as the third richest man in Africa at $5.8bn, thanks to his investments in the telecommunications giant Globacom and oil company Conoil.
Adenuga attended primary and secondary school in Nigeria before proceeding to the US to study Business Administration. He obtained a master’s degree at Pace University in New York. In 1990, his company, which was then known as Consolidated Oil, obtained a drilling licence and in 1991 they struck oil.
Consolidated Oil was the first indigenous company to strike oil in commercial quantities. Adenuga claims he got his business acumen from his mother, who was also a successful businesswoman.
Femi Otedola is the son of former Lagos State Governor Michael Otedola and began his business career when taking over the family’s printing business in the 1980s.
From these roots, Otedola went into the oil and gas market and founded Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, as well as becoming the chairman of Forte Oil, a major importer of petroleum goods. His investments also range across other sectors such as shipping, real estate and finance. He is estimated to be worth $2.3bn.
Tony Elumelu, a businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is one of the richest men in Africa. His investments include Heirs Holdings, the United Bank of Africa and Transcorp, giving Elumelu a combined worth of $1.4bn.
He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and made his name transforming United Bank of Africa from a Nigerian bank into a pan-African one, with a presence in 19 African countries.
Through Heirs Holdings, an investment firm, he has invested in financial services, energy, real estate, hospitality, agribusiness and healthcare. He uses his foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, to spread entrepreneurship throughout Nigeria.
Folorunsho Alakija made headlines a few years ago when she unseated Oprah Winfrey as the richest black woman in the world. Starting out as a fashion designer, she then moved into oil and is estimated to be worth $2.1bn.
In 1993 she founded her company Famfa Oil and has also invested around $100m in real estate. Apart from her wealth, Folorunsho Alakija is a keen philanthropist, setting up the Rose of Sharon Foundation, which empowers orphans and widows through scholarships and grants.
Theophilus Danjuma has played many different roles in his life including those of general, politician, billionaire and philanthropist. He started out with humble beginnings; his father was a smallholder farmer and metal trader. In 1960 he joined the army and rose through the ranks from a rookie position to become a general. From there he served as Minister of Defence under Obasanjo. In 1979 he retired from politics and focused on his business exploits, including being the Chairman of South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO).
Abdul Samad Rabiu
Abdul Samad Rabiu is the founder of conglomerate BUA Group, which has interests in manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture and is worth over $2.5bn.
Born in Kano in 1960, he is the son of prominent industrialist Khalifa Isyaku Rabiu. BUA Group has the second-largest sugar refinery in the country and is a key player in the fertiliser space. Abdusalam’s company also acquired Nigerian Oil Mills and a controlling stake in the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria some years ago. He is the Chairman of the Nigerian Bank of Industry and engages in philanthropy through his BUA Foundation.