Aliko Dangote: Resilient investors can overcome challenges in Africa

The slow pace of development in Africa is having a negative bearing on its youth population. A recent report published by Africa Development Bank says although 10 to 12 million new people join the labour force each year in Africa, only 3.1 million new jobs are created.

But Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), founded by the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, is committed to stemming that tide with a whopping $100 million to empower young entrepreneurs over a 10 year period. Through its initiative known as Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), the foundation annually offers seed capital ranging $5,000 and $10,000 each to 1,000 African entrepreneurs, apart from training and mentoring them.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, was a guest speaker at this year’s TEF entrepreneurial forum held in Lagos recently.  A host of business leaders, policy makers, and scholars were in attendance.

Telling the story of how he built Dangote Group from a commodity trading company to a conglomerate with diversified products, Dangote urged the young entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and be daring in pursuit of their dreams.

Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu

According to him, the Dangote Group has been able to expand across Africa because its investment strategy is hinged on identifying sweet spots, providing basic needs and having a contrarian mindset. “When people are not investing, that is when we are investing. When they go low, we go high.”

There are many difficulties associated with starting business in Africa, but Dangote said the opportunities are too many to ignore. “We are still very bullish because Africa is still a land of opportunities,” he said.  “Africa’s troubled past has started giving way and its growth story is fast emerging. From 2016 to 2017, the growth rate of Africa’s economies averaged 5.5 per cent.

“Africa has enormous potential that cannot be overlooked. We also cannot overlook the enormous amount of work to be done to turn this potential into accomplishments. 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is here in Africa.  Several growth drivers exist; political stability, improved macro-economic environment, and micro-economic reforms are rightly expanding the middle class,” Dangote added.

He mentioned challenges such as huge infrastructure gaps, inconsistency in government policies, weak rule of law, corruption hampering the success stories of many young entrepreneurs on the continent, but maintained that they can be surmounted.

Gathering at TEF 2017

Drawing from his own tough experience, Dangote said: “when we started our plant in Obiajana, we were paying 42 to 44 per cent interest rate. The only long term money we had in the entire banking system in Nigeria was 90 days. We were borrowing money at that rate and we survived.”

The mogul advised the young entrepreneurs to develop a solution-driven mindset. He said: “Build a business that solves a problem or addresses a need that many people have. Think big but start small. Be diligent and passionate about what you do. Be prudent and avoid waste and learn to bounce back from setback. Your best lessons will come from your mistakes. Know your limitation and be humble enough to seek advice.

“Character and values are just as important as proficiency. Take risks, see the invisible, be daring and do the impossible. Do not be afraid to fail because failure is usually a precursor to success.”

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Deji Aroloye63 Posts

    a graduate of Linguistics and a staff writer at Outrepreneurs, Deji's forte includes tech, startups and innovations. Years back, Deji wrote on Entertainment and Lifestyle for a tabloid. If he wasn't a writer, Deji would be a photographer or teacher.

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