5 Self-made Billionaires in Africa to Know
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African CEOs - June 27, 2023

5 Self-made Billionaires in Africa to Know

The business landscape of Africa is filled with self-made billionaires who have forged their dreams amidst adversity. These individuals created a name for themselves by defying conventions and providing solutions to continental problems.

Their stories which unveil their audacity, resilience and unparalleled triumph remind young entrepreneurs that their dreams and visions can be made a reality. 

Join us as we delve into the world of some self-made billionaires in Africa.

Michael Adenuga (Nigeria)

Michael Adenuga, one of the richest men in Africa, did not inherit the billions accrued to his name today. His story is one of determination, passion and zeal. Michael started his business journey by hustling while studying. 

He had to work as a taxi driver and a security man to survive and raise his school fees whilst he pursued a degree in Business administration at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, United States.

When he returned to Nigeria, he managed his family sawmill operation in Ogun State while doing other businesses. Adenuga imported car stereos for sale. He also imported lace, sawmill equipment, tomato paste, wines and beer. His consistency in all these ventures gave him his first million at age 26.

Today, Adenuga is the Chairman/Ceo of Globacom Ltd, the third largest operator in Nigeria with 55 million subscribers. Also, his oil exploration outfit Conoil Producing operates 6 oil blocks in the Niger Delta.

Koos Bekker (South Africa)

The story of Koos Bekker cannot be told without stating that the South African billionaire grew up on a farm. He attributes his business success to some of the lessons he learned as a farm boy.

Koos once said, “In farming, you have an element of interference, you plant the seed, then you have an element of nature, it rains, you get yield. Similarly, in business, you do certain things and the environment throws certain issues at you and you try to solve them.”

The billionaire’s business interest was piqued when he discovered that the cable network which existed in Columbia Business School and the US was non-existent in his homeland South Africa at the time.

Koos began to nurture the thought of launching a cable network in his home country. The no-satellite problem in South Africa influenced his project paper. He worked on it and later established one of the first pay-television services outside the US.

The self-made billionaire established Mnet in 1984, a station that aired shows between 5 pm and 7 pm. Some years later, Mnet was divided into two, one of which was ‘Multichoice’, a cable TV company that offered satellite TV services across Sub-Saharan Africa. It owns DSTV, Showmax, and GOTV.

Koos went ahead to conduct research that led to the launch of MTN in 1994. Today, the self-made billionaire is celebrated for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an e-commerce investor and cable TV powerhouse.

Strive Masiyiwa (Zimbabwe)

Another self-made billionaire in Africa is Strive Masiyiwa. The Zimbabwe billionaire joined the anti-colonial movement in his country at the age of 17. As he participated in the movement, a senior officer told him that Zimbabwe doesn’t need more fighters but builders.

Masiyiwa took this to heart and pursued a degree in Electronics Engineering. After his studies at the University of Wales, UK. He worked in the tech industry in Cambridge, England for a while before returning to take on the task of rebuilding his country.

The billionaire joined the state-owned telephone Zimbabwean company, Posts and Telecommunications Corporations (PTC) but was dissatisfied by incessant government formalities that hindered the growth of the organisation.

His dissatisfaction led to his resignation and the eventual launch of his company, Retrofit Engineering. With $75, Masiyiwa led a team of 100 people to offer electrical engineering services on a contract basis. As his company grew, Masiyiwa soon discovered that most Africans did not know about mobile telecommunications.

Determined to solve that problem, the self-made billionaire wrote a business plan and approached the Standard Chartered Merchant Bank for a loan. The bank believed in him and gave him the money he needed. That was how the journey to his billionaire status began. 

Mohammed Dewji (Tanzania)

While some of these billionaires tried their hands at several ventures before striking gold, Mohammed Dewji returned from school to convert his father’s million-dollar international trade business to billions of dollars in revenue.

Dewji transformed his father’s Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), a community trading business, by buying distressed companies from the Tanzanian government and introducing some efficient economic models. These moved the company from $30 million to $1.5 billion within 19 years.

Today, MeTL contributes about 3.5% of the Nation’s GDP as the largest conglomerate in Tanzania.

Christoffel Wiese (South Africa)

Chris Wiese began his business career at Pepkor, his family’s discount clothing chain business in South Africa. He worked in Pepkor, an investment holding company as a director for six years. His journey to becoming a billionaire began when he acquired 44% of the company’s shares.

His acquisition promoted him to the position of Chairman. As Chairman, he spearheaded outstanding managerial decisions including the purchase of Ackermans clothing line, Checkers, Cashbuild, Stuttafords, Smart group holding and Shoprite. 

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