Africa is a continent that is rich in natural resources, yet contains some of the poorest and most war-torn nations on earth. That's less the case in Nigeria, thanks to the efforts of Aliko Dangote, the richest black person in the world. He's pretty much single-handedly raising the profile of his country and continent, which in turn is improving the quality of life for the residents of Nigeria and Africa. Dangote was born into a prosperous family on April 10, 1957. His great-grandfather founded one of the most successful peanut farms in Nigeria and made a fortune exporting peanuts to Europe in the early 1900s. When Dangote was a kid, he started an entrepreneurial venture selling candy for a profit. He graduated from Egypt's Al-Azhar University with a degree in business and launched The Dangote Group. His company traded cement, and thanks to his family's connections with the government, was able to get the licenses he needed to launch his business. Over the next few decades, he worked in Brazil as well as bought multiple homes across the globe, including in the U.S.
Dangote returned to his native Nigeria in the late 1990s. He got involved in politics around this time and backed the People's Democratic Party, which won the election. He was then able to use his political connections to build the biggest cement factory in the world while also getting the government to limit how much cement could be brought in through Nigeria's ports. Dangote's cement business was basically the only one allowed to operate in Nigeria as a result. He built a mine and an airstrip for $1 billion and officially opened for business in 2008. His cement company operates in 14 African countries.
However, cement was only the first part of his overall plan. Today, he runs a range of businesses in everything from food processing to manufacturing to freight. He started the Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Flour, and has a salt mine. His sugar refinery is the largest in Africa. About 70% of the sugar used in candy and beverages in Nigeria comes from his sugar refinery. Dangote also controls much of Nigeria's export of cocoa, ginger, cashews, sesame seeds, and cotton. Dangote's businesses have created so many jobs in Nigeria that he's been lauded with several awards from Nigerian business associations and the government. He's even been the recipient of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, which is the second highest honor that a Nigerian can receive.
Dangote expanded his business and vision for Nigeria into oil. He wants his country to become a force to be reckoned with in the oil industry. Using $3 billion in loans from Nigerian banks, he built a $9 billion oil refinery. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, but due to out-of-date refineries, the country imported most of its oil and motor fuel. Not anymore. Not with Dangote's refinery. It is the largest privately-owned oil refinery in Nigeria.
Before Dangote established his empire, Africa was primarily a continent that exported things. Dangote has changed that dramatically. He's been able to educate fellow Africans on the value of the goods their continent produces and how keeping those in the continent can raise the fortunes of many. Dangote is providing the infrastructure to make this possible.
Basically, Aliko Dangote's exceptional ambition and business acumen have raised the profile and fortunes of Nigeria in the eyes of the world.