Aliko Dangote: Evil or Genius? 
Home African CEOs Aliko Dangote: Evil or Genius? 
African CEOs - April 25, 2023

Aliko Dangote: Evil or Genius? 

Africa’s richest person, Aliko Dangote has been the subject of much debate in recent years. While some describe him as an evil business magnate who has used his immense wealth to manipulate the Nigerian economy and oppress workers, others see him as a brilliant businessman who has played a crucial role in driving economic growth and development in Nigeria and beyond.

With a net worth of over $20 billion, Dangote’s influence on the global business landscape is hard to ignore. We will examine reasons why some people see him as an evil person and why some regard him as a genius.

Dangote’s wealthy background

Unlike some entrepreneurs born without a silver spoon, Dangote was born into a family with silver and golden spoons. Dangote was raised by his grandfather, Sanusi Dantata who grew rich trading commodities like grain oats and rice and ranked as one of Kano’s wealthiest citizens. Growing up with his grandfather exposed him to the realities of business.

He once said,  “When you are raised by an entrepreneurial parent or grandparent you pick that aspiration, It makes you be much more aggressive — to think anything is possible.”Dangote who picked an interest in entrepreneurship quite early said, “At 8 I would use it to buy sweets, and I would give them to some people to sell, and they would bring me the profit.”

Being the grandson of Dantata also gave Dangote access to quality education. The Nigerian billionaire studied business studies and administration at Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. After his study, he returned to Nigeria and moved to Lagos, Nigeria, to start his business. His determination to start his business has been greatly celebrated by those who have idolised the billionaire.

His hustle in Lagos

In Lagos, Dangote established his company, Dangote Group as a small trading firm in 1977. He used a $500,000 loan gotten from his uncle to set up the firm which focused on products like rice, sugar and cement. set up 21-year-old Dangote as a trader of rice, sugar and cement.

According to reports, Dangote imported sugar from Brazil and rice from Thailand and sold them locally. Describing those days as good days, Dangote said he was making $10,000 in profit a day. “Things were quite good, It allowed us to create an awful lot of cash.” Dangote’s passion and dexterity could be another reason why he is described as a genius on the African continent.

Rise to power via government influence

Dangote’s rise to power and fame is closely linked to his connection with the government of his country. The Nigerian billionaire who considered shifting from trading to manufacturing was delighted when held its first democratic presidential election in six years and chose Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.

Dangote who had known Obasanjo since 1981 reportedly contributed 200 million naira (about $1.5 million at the time) to Obasanjo’s first election campaign, and in 2003 at least another one billion naira (about USD 7.5 million) for the second term. Obasanjo’s coming into power with a pledge to promote domestic industry gave Dangote express permission to launch into manufacturing full-time.

He began Dangote Sugar in 2000 and increased the annual production capacity of its refinery at Lagos’ Apapa Port to 1.44 million tons, enough to satisfy 90% of national demand. In no time at all, Dangote Sugar debuted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2007, followed by his Dangote Flour, which produces pasta and noodles in 2008, and Dangote cement in 2010.

Reports suggest that Dangote was a known contributor to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He also has a great relationship with some state governors and enjoys support from the Sokoto Caliphate. Some Nigerians believe businessmen who are closely knitted with politics are the cause of the nation’s problems. This could be why some individuals see him as evil.

Banning importation/exports for competitors

Reports say Dangote held exclusive import rights in sugar, cement, and rice using such advantages to do volume business and undercut competitors. He once admitted in a 1996 interview that a government mandate forced him to import so much rice that the local market crashed by almost 80 per cent. 

The report emphasized that the trade barriers introduced by the government at that time suggested preferential treatment. It noted that tariffs or outright bans on imported items favored the Group in nearly all areas in which they do business including wheat flour, cement, certain textiles, sugar and pasta. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum. Dangote said, “Don’t give any more aid to Africa! Invest with local partners instead. You will make money, and we’ll make money, and it’s better for everyone.” 

Coercion of land occupants 

In 2014, Dangote was allegedly accused of using police officers to evacuate residents of the Idasho community, Lagos in order to facilitate the takeover of a huge parcel of land. The land was used as a site for the Dangote petrochemical plant. Residents told newsmen that the policemen “defied the notice of court process. They arrested and took away residents, including women, who informed them that they were in court over the land.” 

Also, the case is not different in Dangote’s Cement plant in Obajana, Kogi state. Talking about how Dangote took their lands and livelihood from them, Chief Oluwasegun Obanla, the Obaja of Oworo Land, a former community leader in Obajana said, “When Dangote came, the farmers who were original owners of the land were compensated with peanuts and driven off the land. The approach was so authoritarian. Dangote destroyed all these crops to make way for its factory and only gave compensation not commensurate with what was destroyed.”

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