With 8 billion people on this earth, it’s understandable if you don’t know every person that occupies the elite 1% ranks. Those are the people that are the wealthiest in the world. Many of them fly under the radar but own corporate empires so strong that they touch virtually every corner of the world. And when you further filter that 1% down to the richest Black people in the world (not just Americans but people of the diaspora from all over the world), the answers can be even more elusive.
While it’s easy to assume that the wealthiest people of African ancestry must be celebrities, that’s not always the case. Even in the United States, the richest Black man is a venture capitalist and the owner of one of the top private equity firms in the country. But if you’re not sure who the richest Black man is in the world, keep reading as AfroTech has done the research for you. The answer might surprise you.
Aliko Dangote: The Richest Black Man In the World
So, who is the richest Black man in the world? That title belongs to none other than Aliko Dangote of Nigeria. Along with being the richest Black man with a net worth of $11.2 billion (as of the time of publishing this article), he’s also Africa’s richest person, and the 158th richest person in the world when you don’t filter for race. Dangote is the founder and chairman of Dangote Cement, the largest cement producer on the continent. Currently, he holds an 85% stake in the publicly-traded firm. Along with the cement company, Aliko Dangote also owns a fertilizer plant that launched operations in March 2022. But his plans aren’t limited to cement and fertilizer. Dangote Refinery is poised to be the largest oil refinery in the world when it reaches full production capacity.
A Family Legacy of Excellence
Aliko Dangote’s story is an inspiring one, and also demonstrates the importance of growing up with access to opportunities. He was born into a wealthy family in Kano, Nigeria while the country was under British rule in 1957. His mother was the daughter of the businessman Sanusi Dantata, and the granddaughter of Alhassan Dantata who was the richest person in West Africa until his death in 1955. Meanwhile, Dangote’s father Mohammad Dangote was also a business associate of Sanusi Dantata prior to marrying his daughter.
In short, one could say that Dangote was destined for greatness. In 1978, he graduated from Government College, in the Birmin Kudu state of Nigeria. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
The Beginnings of a Business Magnate
Before Aliko Dangote even graduated from Government College, he was already laying the groundwork for his future empire. In 1977, he launched Dangote Group which was a small trading firm. He shifted operations to Lagos, Nigeria’s capital city. Thanks to a $500,000 loan from his uncle, Dangote focused on trading commodities like sugar, cement, and rice.
Nearly 20 years later in the 1990s, he would approach the Central Bank of Nigeria after expanding into transportation. He proposed to take over the bank’s fleet of buses that shuttled the staff between various locations and the bank agreed. The rest, as they say, is history with the Dangote Group continuing to rise to the top.
Building an Empire
Over nearly 30 years Dangote Group continually expanded into new markets and industries. Once a humble trading group, the organization is the largest industrial group in Nigeria with operations that span sugar and flour refining as well as cement production — which is one of the most notable arms of the largest conglomerate in Africa. Along with Nigeria, there are international activities in Ghana, Zambia, Togo, and Benin. Dangote Group is one of the largest sugar suppliers in Nigeria, providing the staple to 70% of the market including national soft drink companies, confectioners, and breweries.
The organization also exports a wide array of commodities including cotton, nuts, ginger, cocoa, and sesame seeds. Meanwhile Dangote Group imports rice, fish, cement, pasta, and fertilizer. The firm also has investments across a range of industries including real estate, transportation, and textiles. Notably, in February 2022 Aliko Dangote announced a partnership with Stellantis Group, the parent company of automobile maker Peugeot. To support this collaboration, Dangote created an assembly facility in Nigeria and developed Dangote Peugeot Automobiles Nigeria Limited (DPAN) which is based in the city of Kaduna. Today, the factory produces several automobiles within the Peugeot portfolio.
Recently, the Dangote Refinery was commissioned and became Africa’s biggest refinery. Along with refining petroleum, the refinery also exports petrol and diesel. Although not fully operational as of publication of this article, when this milestone is met, the refinery will employ 135,000 people in the region.
Aliko Dangote and His Philanthropic Endeavors
Unsurprisingly, being ultra wealthy means that people expect for that individual to give back. Aliko Dangote does engage in charitable giving, with the most notable donation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for public health outreach. In 2014, Dangote donated the equivalent of $750,000 USD to help stop the spread of Ebola in Nigeria. Similarly, in 2020 he donated the equivalent of $500,000 USD to control the spread of COVID-19 in the African nation. Dangote also focuses on social causes, donating $10 million to support his countrymen that were affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Diversity in Black Wealth
Aliko Dangote’s story is one that can best be summed up as the power of generational wealth. Having access to opportunities, connections, and the option to bypass traditional funding sources to start a thriving business gave him an obvious advantage. This doesn’t take away from the hard work that was required to transform Dangote Group from a small trading company to a multinational conglomerate. But it’s an inspirational story for members of the African diaspora that reinforces why wealth-building is so critical for the community.