With one of the strongest and fastest-growing economies in Africa, it is perhaps no surprise that Nigeria has produced some of the continent’s wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs.
Almost everyone is interested in learning a little more about these individuals, so here are the stories behind just three of them.
Aliko Dangote was born and educated in Kano State, before leaving the country to study business at Al-Azahar University in Cairo. On returning home he was employed by his uncle, Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata, from whom he borrowed N500,000 (around $3,500 in today’s money) in 1977, to start his own business.
The newly formed Dangote Group began trading commodities including rice, sugar, millet, pasta, vegetable oil, cotton, textiles and cocoa. By developing an ethical, efficient and reliable import and distribution system, Aliko managed to gain an edge on his competitors. Having successfully established this company, his next move was to set up a manufacturing and production business based on the commodities he was importing.
In 2007, on Aliko’s 50th birthday, he commissioned a $1 billion cement factory, the largest in the continent. Today, the Dangote Group consists of 12 companies operating in sectors as diverse as sugar refining, cement, shipping and flour milling. In 2013, Dangote borrowed around $3 billion to help fund the construction of a $9 billion petroleum refinery, which is set to be the biggest in Africa when completed.
In 2014, Aliko Dangote donated $1.2 billion to the Dangote Foundation, which he formed 20 years previously. According to the Forbes Rich List he is currently worth $20 billion, making him the 23rd wealthiest person in the world and the richest in Africa.
Uloma Ibeawuchi attended Lagos State University reading English Language. Having graduated, she went on to take courses including corporate strategy and advertising, international affairs and the psychology of business success. She set up Clean Yard Services Ltd in October 2010 with just N20,000 ($123) and in May 2012 was awarded a grant from the Federal Government as part of the Youth Win in Nigeria Program.
Uloma has praised the support and encouragement the Federal Ministry of Finance gave to young entrepreneurs in 2013 via its YouWin scheme, which provided training and funding worth a total of N10 million ($62,000). When asked about what it takes to succeed as a young entrepreneur, Uloma said that first and foremost it is essential to have a vision and keep an open mind. Next, take courses in company finance and management, and finally, find an entrepreneur to act as a mentor.
Tunde Folawiyo was born on April 12th 1960 and went on to earn a BSc in Economics and an MSc in Law from the London School of Economics.
Tunde’s father, Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo, who was one of the country’s most successful businessmen, died in 2008. Founded in 1957, the Yinka Folawiyo Group, which was originally an import/export company, grew into one of Nigeria’s largest private corporations with interests in agriculture, banking, shipping, construction and energy.
Tunde Folawiyo took over the business on the death of his father and has been instrumental in nurturing its growth into one of the most profitable companies in Africa. He has also become known for his philanthropic gestures; for example, Tunde Folawiyo is involved with the African Leadership Academy, and is dedicated to improving the country’s environment, endangered wildlife and the prospects of his compatriots.
With inspirational role models such as Aliko Dangote, Uloma Ibeawuchi and Tunde Folawiyo there is little wonder that the future of this country looks so bright.