Mohammed “Mo” Gulamabbas Dewji, is a Tanzanian billionaire businessman and former politician.
He owns MeTL Group, a Tanzanian conglomerate that his father founded in the 1970s.
Dewji represented his native town of Singida in the Tanzanian Parliament for Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) from 2005 to 2015.
Dewji is Africa’s 17th richest person and youngest billionaire, with an estimated net worth of US$1.6 billion as of November 2021. In 2013, Dewji became the first Tanzanian to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine.
Here are 7 business lessons from Africa’s youngest billionaire Mohammed Dewji.
1. Preparation is vital
Preparation is vital before entering any business venture. Mohammed Dewji prepared himself to take over and run his father’s business. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international business and finance and a minor in theology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Clearly, Dewji was building his path on having a solid standing at his father’s company. Upon graduation from the university, he returned home.
Soon, he took over the management of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), his father’s commodities trading company. After two years with the company, he became MeTL’s chief financial officer (CFO).
2. Stay ready for the slightest opportunity
In the early 2000s, the Tanzanian government privatised loss-making enterprises. Dewji acquired them and bought them cheaply, converting them into profit centres by cutting employee costs.
This move was one of many that made MeTL Group Tanzania’s largest privately held conglomerate.
3. Accurate leadership skills
Dewji’s leadership of MeTL saw it grow from $30 million to over $1.5 billion between 1999 and 2018.
The business operation covers manufacturing, agriculture, trading, finance, mobile phone, insurance, real estate, transportation and logistics, and food and drinks.
The organisation employs over 28,000 individuals in 11 countries and intends to employ hundreds of thousands in the future. MeTL’s operations account for around 3.5 percent of Tanzania’s GDP.
4. Be indispensable
Mohammed Dewji was dubbed the “pride of Tanzania” by the Brunswick Group following the October 2018 event.
Dewji used to roam about Dar es Salaam without security despite his billionaire status. Then, in October, he was abducted by a gang of armed men while visiting a hotel gym for a workout.
Something incredible happened during those ten days, while his fate remained unknown.
Thousands of Tanzanians took to the streets and social media to pray for the safe return of Dewji, the country’s wealthiest man and largest private employer. At this time, there was a rise in global anxiety over economic inequity in a country stricken by poverty. His kidnappers later released him, but it was not known if the release came at a cost.
5. Aim high and don’t give up
Dewji ran for Member of Parliament (MP) for Singida Urban in Tanzania’s second multi-party elections in 2000 when he was 25 years old.
Despite receiving an overwhelming majority of preliminary votes for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Dewji was declared too young to hold the parliamentary seat.
In October 2005, Tanzania had its third multi-party elections, and Dewji ran for the parliamentary seat again, this time being chosen by CCM to represent Singida Urban.
He received 90% of the vote in the general election and was sworn in as an MP for the Singida Urban seat on December 29, 2005. Dewji was in politics for twelve years before stepping down in October 2015.
6. Give back
In 2014, Dewji founded the Mo Dewji Foundation. He signed the Giving Pledge, which invites the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to pledge to give more than half of their wealth to philanthropy, either during their lifetime or in their will, to help address society’s most pressing challenges.
Dewji is the first Tanzanian and one of just three Africans among the 150+ billionaires who have signed the commitment, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Strive Masiyiwa, and Patrice Motsepe.
7. Work hard
In the 2013 July cover of Forbes Africa, Dewji said he puts in 100 hours a week growing MeTL into a pan-African conglomerate.
“My problem is my mind, it runs like a train. I’m trying to slow it down.” he said
Dewji believes in developing a culture of working hard toward your objective, even if you encounter obstacles that cause you to pause or slow down.
“You have to keep in mind the vision that you have and believe in and keep going towards it.”
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