One of the major highlights of last week was an in-depth interview Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote had with Bloomberg correspondent, Francine Lacqua. In the interview, Dangote revealed much about his personal life as well as a business journey so far. While many are harping on the surprising revelations that emerged from the interview, this article takes a look at 4 lessons that entrepreneurs can from Dangote’s interview.
Make sure your product/service satisfies a need
This is an often-repeated and often-neglected mantra of entrepreneurs. However, unless that your business idea satisfies some major need in the life or business of other people, you can as well ditch it. Dangote said as much during his interview, revealing how he came to his decisions to move into key areas such as cement and agriculture
I think actually what I figured out was looking at the entire African continent, especially sub-Saharan, and saying, “What do we actually produce?” What I learned is that the majority of African countries imported cement. The better way, I thought, would be to empower Africa—to meet our own infrastructural needs so that we could be more self-sufficient.
Never be afraid to challenge the status quo
They say ‘Fortune favors the brave’ and that applies to business as well. For a new business that is scared to challenge the way things are done but continue to toe the line of predecessors, the likelihood of achieving major success is low. For Dangote, in an era where almost every other billionaire in Nigeria runs oil businesses, he remains the odd one out having made his money from other sources.
The majority of people here made their money through oil. But Dangote has never ever dealt in oil, which is to prove that you don’t have to be in oil. In Nigeria, oil has really damaged our thinking. Everyone is thinking about oil, oil, oil. And we are one company that has made a success without doing that
Passion is key
Being an entrepreneur is never easy. Problems will come from the right, left and center. People will talk you down, the business may be slow at times, and many other issues may come up. The only thing that can push you these difficult times is your passion for achieving your dream. Many people see Dangote and believe he always had it rosy. Not many would believe his business was in debt as recently as 2010.
We had already studied doing 300,000 barrels a day back in 2005. At that time I couldn’t even fathom a larger refinery. I had no financial capacity. Then in about 2010, we paid all Dangote Group’s debts, which amounted to $2 billion…We don’t want to listen to the critics because their intention is to destroy us. We are using our own money. This is my lifetime project. I have to back it up with my own life to make sure it is delivered.
There is no way you can have a population of 320 million in West Africa and no self-sufficiency. So the first thing to do is food security. We have land, we have water, we have the climate—we shouldn’t be a massive importer of food. With modern farming, you can get 8 to 10 tons per hectare. I believe Dangote Group is in the right position to drive this trajectory.
Never stop growing your appetite for success
One thing that stood out from the interview was that Aliko Dangote, despite breaking so many records and having so much success, was not yet ready to throw in the towel. The excitement with which he spoke about current and future projects showed that he’s that guy who always looks forward to the next challenge. He already has a plan for 2025! Every entrepreneur should be that guy. That’s the only way to reach one’s full potential. Many are satisfied growing a business to a point and cashing in on a few million. The truly successful seek more success
Beginning in 2020 our major investment will be in the U.S. and Europe… Beginning in 2020, 60 percent of our future investments will be outside Africa, so we can have a balance.
Let’s say that by 2025, I’m looking at [putting in] between $20 billion and $50 billion [in Europe or the U.S].
Our business strategy has always been like that, yes. We don’t want to be No. 2 in anything that we do. We want to be No. 1. Worst case, we can be No. 2 but targeted to become No. 1.