Aliko Dangote - the ultimate business leader
When Aliko Dangote looks back and reflects on 2011, he probably does so with a big grin on his face, and rightly so.
Dangote was named the 2011 Business Leader of the Year at the African Business Awards, beating off competition from Nizar Jumaâ€¨of Jubilee Holdings, James Mwangi of Equity Bank,â€¨Phuthuma Freedom Nhlekoâ€¨of MTN and Vimal Shah of Bidco Oil Refineries.
At the same awards, organised by African Business and the Commonwealth Business Council, the Dangote Group was crowned African Business of the Year.
The name 'Dangote' is a household name in Nigeria, thanks to the Dangote Group's wide variety of products found on the country's supermarket shelves and beyond.
The biggest brand in the group is Dangote Cement, the largest company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Aliko Dangote, the founder, made the 2011 Forbes list of world billionaires in 2011 after his fortune increased by 557 percent, making him now worth an estimated $13.8 billion.
Those who haven't a Dangote product in their kitchen cupboards have probably seen a Dangote exporter truck or even helped to contribute to the Group's success indirectly seeing as it dominates the sugar market in the country, supplying soft drinks manufacturers, breweries and confectioners.
The Dangote Group has 13 subsidiaries spread all over Nigeria to include salt, flour, pasta, noodles, logistics, real estate, telecommunications, steel, oil and gas among others, and operates in 14 African countries.
So who is the man behind the multi-billion dollar fortune?
Well you don't become the second richest man in Africa and the Middle East, and the 51st richest man in the world without a fair amount of business acumen and bold leadership strategies.
Born in 1957, Alhaji Aliko Dangote was a graduate of Business Studies from the Al-Azahar University in Cairo, Egypt. His humble beginnings in business started in 1977 when he began trading in rice, sugar and cement, before he ventured into full-scale manufacturing.
He established the Dangote Group as a trading business in 1981, initially focusing on cement. In the years that followed, this progressed into a conglomerate trading cement, sugar, flour, salt and fish.
In 1999, Dangote travelled to Brazil to study the up and coming manufacturing sector. It was this trip that signalled the real explosion in growth for the Dangote Group.
Dangote made the brave decision to change his Group from a trading based business into a complete manufacturing empire – exploiting a gap in Nigeria, a country which had previously relied on imports for consumable goods.
Since the millennium, Dangote's business plan has centred around the ambitious construction of flour mills, a sugar refinery and a pasta factory and in the same year the Group acquired government-owned Benue Cement. Obajana Cement Plant, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, was opened in 2003.
The Group's core business of providing local, value-added products and services that meet the 'basic needs' of the Nigerian population has certainly worked. In 2010, it recorded a turnover in excess of $3 billion (N450 billion) and has much more potential, too.
In September it was announced that Dangote plans to build the largest fertiliser plant in Africa in an effort to aid the country’s agriculture industry and to cut down on food shortages, scheduled to come into operation by 2014.
When accepting his Business Leader award, Dangote said he was confident that a new era had begun in terms of doing business on the continent.
“Reforms are changing the face of doing business in the continent,” he said. “Over 84 percent of economies in sub-Saharan Africa have implemented regulatory reforms making it easier to do business.
“There are still challenges to doing business in Africa but there is hope. This is a new Africa. Governance is much better. Yes, there is corruption and it is still an issue. But looking at where we have come from, things are getting better and fast.”
To read this article in the latest edition of African Business Review, click here.
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5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.