Did China Help Make Aliko Dangote Africa’s Richest Man?

Credit: CNBC

By Afia Boakye

For many young Africans looking for a successful business role model, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, is the one. 

As the founder and President of West Africa’s largest conglomerate, Dangote Group, Dangote is worth an estimated $17.8 billion.

Last year, Dangote finally shared his thoughts on China’s presence in Africa in an interview on a Nigerian TV program.

There, he mentioned that Chinese businesses are coming to Africa for “what they need” and are not participating in the “real economy.” That is, the Chinese are not challenging local enterprises in Nigeria and Africa more broadly. 

Dangote pushed back on complaints that China was undermining business in Africa. Instead, he put the responsibility of changing Africa’s economic situation on Africans, saying Africans “need to show confidence that it can be done. The local people must move first then they will be supported by foreign investors.”

Dangote seems to have taken his own advice regarding China many times in his business exploits. Although there is no public evidence of Chinese funding in Dangote Group, Dangote has consistently leveraged on Chinese products, technology, and know-how to build products and access resources that are not readily available in Africa. 

In 2015, BBC reported that Dangote Group had signed a deal worth $4.3bn (£2.8bn) with a Chinese state-owned engineering company to build factories for a Nigerian cement company run by the company. 

In 2017, Reuters reported that Dangote was in a joint venture with Chinese duty truck group, Sinotruck, to set up a $100 million plant to assemble trucks and cars in Nigeria for local use and export. Dangote believed that there are not enough trucks in the country. 

In 2019, Hydrocarbon Processing reported that Dangote bought the world’s largest atmospheric tower from Chinese company, Sinopec. The piece of equipment will process crude oil for Nigeria’s Dangote Refinery, a $12-14 billion project which will make it the largest single-train refinery in the world. 

Overall, it is clear that Africa’s richest man is in deep ties with China’s business and tech ecosystem. Dangote consistently leverages on Chinese products, technologies, and know-how to continue to build and accomplish many feats and firsts in Africa. 

So did China help make Aliko Dangote Africa’s richest man? Yes. It did and continues to do so.

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