You probably already know that Aliko Dangote is the richest man in Africa. With a net worth of nearly $21 billion, the Nigerian businessman’s Dangote Group controls vast holdings of commodities, real estate, and telecommunications projects. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Aliko Dangote.
1. He’s been a businessman since he was a child.
While he was in primary school in the 1960s, the young Dangote would buy boxes of sweets and sell them at a profit to his fellow classmates. After studying business at the University of Cairo, he started the Dangote Group at the age of 21.
2. He’s on Twitter.
Since starting his social media account on New Year’s Eve of 2013, Dangote has amassed more than 50,000 followers. So far, his tweets have addressed malnutrition, the Davos economic conference, and entrepreneurship. No selfies, though. At least not yet.
3. He is always working.
At a recent lecture at the Lagos Business School in Nigeria, the cement magnate told his audience, “I am someone who doesn’t switch off my phone. My phone is on 24 hours.” Even more impressive: Dangote starts his workday at 5 a.m.
4. He is an exercise buff.
Despite his busy schedule, Dangote manages to squeeze in frequent jogging sessions. “Exercise is better than any medicine I can take. Exercise and sleep,” Dangote said.
5. He has been accused of getting special treatment.
Former U.S. Consul General to Nigeria, Brian Browne said Africa’s richest billionaire — Dangote — has received special treatment from Nigeria’s government in the form of exclusive import rights while high taxes or bans are imposed on competitors’ imports. Dangote denies any special treatment, saying he simply maintained friendships with elected officials.
6. He is a philanthropist.
The billionaire’s Dangote Foundation has provided more than 10 billion naira to combat poverty in Nigeria. In addition to business grants, the foundation sends cash transfers to women and children who often suffer the worst effects of poverty.
7. He is expanding into the fuel business.
In May of 2013, Dangote announced that he would begin building the largest oil refinery in Africa. Despite being an oil-rich state, Nigeria often suffers from fuel shortages. Creating this refinery, Dangote said, will create thousands of jobs.
8. He has survived multiple plane crashes.
Dangote has walked away from not one, not two, but three plane crashes. In 1996, one of those crashes killed Dangote’s brother and Sani Abacha, son of Nigeria’s head of state.
9. He is the not the first extremely wealthy person in his family.
Dangote’s great grandfather, Alhassan Dantata, was possibly the richest man in West Africa.
10. He is committed to building up Nigeria.
Despite owning holding companies all over Africa, Dangote’s primary focus is still on his Nigerian homeland. He said, “If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.”