Mohammed “Mo” Gulamabbas Dewji was born on the 8th of May 1975 in Singida, Tanzania, to a middle-class family. His parents are Twelver Shias whose forefathers left Gujarat, India in the late 1800s to become traders in East Africa. Dewji was born in a sand and mud home with the assistance of a neighbouring midwife. He said that the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck almost killed him at birth, a condition known as nuchal cord. A brighter light rose on the horizon for Dewji, by the time he was starting school, his father had transformed a family shop into a profitable import-export business.
After his early education, Dewji went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in international business and finance with a minor in theology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1998.
Mohammed Dewji’s Most Notable Business Move
Dewji came home after graduating from university and took over the operation of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), a commodities trading company founded by his father. He became MeTL’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) after two years with the firm. Dewji’s business decision that made all the difference came when the Tanzanian government privatised loss-making enterprises in the early 2000s. He bought them cheaply and converted them into profit entities by cutting employee costs.
Displaying a vibrant business acumen, Dewji’s leadership of MeTL Group of Companies saw it soar from $30 million to over $1.5 billion between 1999 and 2018. The MeTL Group of Companies is Tanzania’s largest privately held conglomerate. The business operates in manufacturing, agriculture, trading, finance, mobile telephony, insurance, real estate, transport and logistics, and food and beverages. The company operates in 11 countries and employs over 28,000 people, with a goal of employing hundreds of thousands in the years to come. The operations of MeTL account for about 3.5 percent of Tanzania’s GDP.
According to Forbes, Dewji’s estimated net worth as of 2021 stands at $1.6 billion, making him Africa’s youngest billionaire. Dewji, ran for parliament in Tanzania and won, but was denied the seat for being too young. He went on to run again and this time was sworn in as Member of Parliament for the Singida Urban seat on December 29, 2005, after winning the general election with 90% of the vote. Dewji was in politics for twelve years before stepping down in October 2015.
Mohammed Dewji: The Pride of Tanzania
The Brunswick Group referred to Mohammed Dewji as the ‘pride of Tanzania’, a claim arising from the incident of October 2018. Dewji, despite his billionaire status, used to walk around Dar es Salaam without security. Then, in October, he was kidnapped by a gang of armed men when he arrived at a hotel for a workout in its gym. During the ten days, while his fate remained uncertain, something amazing occurred. Thousands of ordinary people flocked to the streets and to social media to pray for the safe return of Dewji, Tanzania’s wealthiest man and largest private employer, and at a time when global anxiety about economic disparity was on the rise, and in a country devastated by poverty. His kidnappers eventually let him go.