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A Look Into The Lives Of Africa’s “April Bulls”- Dangote And Adenuga

By Greg Nwakunor 28 April 2019   |   10:00 am

Everyone is unique. However, people born in April have a common trait: They are born leaders. Known for being tenacious and determined in meeting their goals, they are often thought to be stubborn, and not letting go puts them on the road to success. They are not afraid to try new things and face difficulties in life. They strive for perfection in anything they do.

For a fact that they fail in one task, April-born people still try not to lose hope. If they fail in one thing, they try to do it again until they become successful.

They are smart, brave, bold and kind. Little wonder that Nigeria’s economy is in the pouch of two April “bulls”: Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga.

Both men have defined how to do business on the continent. They are not afraid to deal with problems and obstacles. They are not afraid to speak up – they always say what they think.

Aliko Dangote: From Grace to Grace

Aliko Dangote. Photo credit: Google

“I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets (sugar boxes) and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.”

Born April 10, 1957, into a wealthy trading family, Aliko Dangote is an extraordinary personality. Mainly known to the public for his entrepreneurial skill, Dangote is a philanthropist extraordinaire. Although he may seem to be quiet and steady, he avoids living a monotonous life. He will never do a job he hates and will never stick to any boring routine — be it a workout or a diet.

The distinctive personality traits of the man reputed to be the world’s 65th richest man and Africa’s richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — with a net worth of $16.6 billion as of February 28, 2019 — are self-confidence, high level of humility, enthusiasm and warmth.

An enormous credit in his formation as a businessman and industrialist belongs to his grandparent. Having spent much of his childhood with his grandfather (Sanusi Dantata), he began to have an eye for business.
He once told a biographer: “I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets (sugar boxes) and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.”

He went on to study business at the Al Azhar University, Cairo in Egypt, and thereafter, returned to Nigeria to work with his uncle Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata. And like most people born in April, he loves to be independent. They don’t like to be dependent on their parents, husbands or grandparents. They prefer to make their own money and work hard to have anything they want or need in life.

At 21, he borrowed N500,000 from his uncle to import and sell agricultural commodities. His business venture quickly became a success, and as a result, he managed to repay the entire loan within three months of starting operations.

Today, it is no longer small business but trillion-naira conglomerate with operations in Benin, Ghana Nigeria and Togo. Currently, Dangote has enlarged his line of businesses to cover food processing, cement manufacturing and freight. Dangote Group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria. Dangote owns the world’s third-largest sugar refinery. In fact, it is the major sugar supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries and confectioners.

Dangote began building salt and sugar refineries, flour mills and a pasta factory in 1999. A year later, he bought the Benue Cement Co. from the Nigerian government. He later commissioned the Obajana Cement Plant, currently the largest cement facility in sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, Dangote Group’s main publicly traded businesses – Dangote Cement, Dangote Sugar, Dangote Flour Mills and Nascon Allied Industries – make up about one-third of the market capitalisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

About 80 percent of his conglomerate’s revenue comes from Dangote Cement. According to Forbes magazine, the subsidiary produces 44 million metric tons of cement every year and plans to increase output by 33 percent by 2020.

The bulk of his $16.6 billion fortune comes from Dangote Cement, which is the largest cement producer in Africa. It was founded by him and is currently chaired by him. In 2017, it made a revenue of $2.4 billion.

Dangote’s empire is about to become bigger with his new fertiliser plant valued at $5 billion. Contractors are reportedly putting final touches to it. There is also a vast oil refinery - a $12 billion project, which is still under construction.

Investment Continues

He is also known for investing in not only Nigeria but other parts of Africa. Yet, he once said, “let me tell you this and I want to really emphasise it, nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me US$5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.”

In 1994, the business started the Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) as the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of Dangote Group. The foundation focuses on three strategic focus areas: health, education, and economic empowerment. It became the largest private foundation in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014 after Dangote donated the equivalent of $1.25 billion (N450 billion).

“I am going to try my best and give part of that money to charity. I am working hard on it… I think from this year, I personally want to take it (philanthropy) very seriously,” he stated that year.

So far, the Foundation has given out N1 billion to Nigerian universities, N230 million to women in Kogi State, relief materials worth N50 million, and $2 million (N721 million) to the World Food Programme. His programme in the Northeast and other interventions in universities are huge.

Still, Dangote remains unsatisfied as he aims for more humanitarian work. In October 2018, he announced his vision to become the biggest philanthropist in Nigeria and Africa.
“I do not only want to be known as Africa’s richest man but the biggest philanthropist. I will continue to use my resources and my voice to help shape a better Nigeria, and Africa as a whole,” the businessman said as he flagged off a project in Niger State.

Mike Adenuga: From Sawmill To Oil Rig

Mike Adenuga

“I am not interested in being the richest man in the world. If I can be seen as adding value to Nigerians and Africans, it is more fulfilling.”

Born on April 29, 1953, in Ibadan, to parents from Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr is Nigeria’s second richest man, as well as one of Africa’s richest personalities. Worth $9.3 billion (N3 trillion) as of April 24, 2019, Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production.

Adenuga is a highly assertive person. Many think he is bullish and aggressive, but in reality, he is a kind and sensitive personalities. He is an extremely curious person. He wants to know everything around him, especially in his investment to find out what he needs. He is not afraid to show his curiosity, and this trait helps him to be smarter and more successful.

His mobile phone network Globacom is the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 43 million subscribers. Fondly referred to as ‘The Bull’ not just because he was born under the Taurus zodiac sign, but like a charging bull, he never backs down from a fight. The Globacom story best exemplifies this spirit.

In January 2001, the Nigerian government conducted an auction for 5 Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) provisional licenses and invited bids from institutional investors and individuals. Adenuga was one of the bidders, and through his company, Communications Investment Limited (CIL) – a special purpose vehicle, he bid for one of the licenses, which cost a pricey $285 million (N102 billion) apiece.

A month later, after paying a $20 million (N7 billion) mandatory deposit, Adenuga was awarded a provisional license and was given a 14-day deadline to raise the balance of $265 million (N95 billion). For some reasons, Adenuga did not meet his obligations and consequently lost his $20 million (N7 billion) deposit in that ill-fated transaction.

He was devastated by the loss, but not broken. He surged on. He waited for the next opportunity to acquire a GSM license while running his banking, real estate and energy businesses.

As fate would have it, a year later, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) invited bids for the Second National Operator (SNO) license.

Adenuga paid another $20 million (N7 billion) mandatory deposit fee for the license. This time around he won the license. Ironically, the SNO licence gave him a broader range of options, as Globacom was given the right to operate as a national carrier, operate digital mobile lines, serve as an international gateway for telecommunications in the country and operate fixed wireless access phones.

His biggest talent is his innate ability to transform mere ideas into successful and disruptive enterprises. One of the first services Globacom offered its Nigerian subscribers was the cheaper option of Per Second Billing (PSB), rather than the ‘per-minute’ model other mobile network providers had traditionally adopted. Experts had severally warned that the PSB model was too risky, too soon, and definitely unprofitable. But Adenuga proved them wrong.

When Globacom launched the PSB on August 29, 2003, it became popular. Nigerians rushed to the network in droves and other networks were forced to follow suit. Since then, Globacom has, through its various subsidiaries, pioneered several innovative services in Nigeria such as Mobile Internet, Blackberry subscription and Vehicle Tracking services.
In 2010, Adenuga spent over $1 billion on Glo 1 Submarine Cable, an undersea cable system, which stretches from Europe to Nigeria and has landing stations in 16 West African countries. Glo 1 will provide bandwidth to all telecom operators, carriers and corporations, connecting them to all the major destinations in the world.

Typical of him, he has charged up his way to the top. When he was in his late teens, Adenuga left the shores of Nigeria to study Business Administration at Northwestern University and Pace University in the United States. Even as an undergrad international student, the young Adenuga took up a job as a taxi driver and worked as a security guard at night to pay his way through school. After acquiring his business degrees in the United States, he returned home to Nigeria and inherited a small Sawmill operation from his father.

When he was still in his 20s, he ventured into the construction business. Leveraging his personal relationships with influential military officers, Adenuga was able to corner lucrative government construction contracts, which he executed satisfactorily.

As his construction business blossomed, Adenuga began scouting for more adventurous and sophisticated business opportunities. In 1989 he applied for a banking license and founded Devcom Bank, one of Nigeria’s earliest merchant banks.

Adenuga is also one of the more recognizable players in Nigeria’s energy sector. In 1991, his oil exploration company, Conoil Producing Limited, made history when it became the first indigenous company to strike crude oil in commercial quantities at a time indigenous companies with oil blocks were sold off to foreign investors. Conoil is now one of Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil companies with at least six producing deep offshore assets and daily production of 100,000 barrels per day. In April 2011, when Shell was divesting its upstream assets in the country, Adenuga acquired the oil major’s most prolific onshore oil block, OML 30 at a cost of $650 million.

The ‘Bull’ equally has his tentacles in the downstream sector of the petroleum economy. In 2000, Adenuga acquired a controlling stake in National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company Plc (NOLCHEM), a petroleum marketing company. At the time Adenuga acquired the shares, NOLCHEM was a shadow of itself. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy; its stock was trading at an all-time low, and several of its retail outlets were dysfunctional at best.

Within a year, Adenuga turned around the fortunes of the company. NOLCHEM, which Adenuga subsequently renamed Conoil PLC is now one of Nigeria’s largest petroleum marketers. Conoil has over 300 retail outlets spread across Nigeria and is one of the top dogs at the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The company has a market capitalisation in the region of $200 million (N72 billion).

When he was asked by a news reporter to divulge the secrets of his outstanding success in business, he said: “Hard work, God’s blessings and luck.”

Adenuga has said during an occasion that he is not motivated by the prospects of wealth. “I am not interested in being the richest man in the world. If I can be seen as adding value to Nigerians and Africans, it is more fulfilling.”

This is April’s latest twosome story – Strong to lift your spirits and cause you to be on the move… upwards.

**All prices were converted to reflect the current Naira ratings.

In this article:
Aliko DangoteMike Adenuga
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