Africa’s Richest Man Makes a $17 Billion Bid for Immortality

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  • Category: News

By: Tom Metcalf and Devon Pendleton


Aliko Dangote’s plan to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on fuel imports will carve out an even bigger slice of the nation’s $376 billion economy for his empire.

                     Dangote at the construction site for the refinery.


The best way to appreciate the scale of Aliko Dangote’s empire is to hitch a ride on one of his private jets. A half-hour after his Bombardier Challenger 605 takes off from Lagos Airport, it descends into a seemingly desolate area of Kogi State in central Nigeria, dusty fields and clusters of trees stretching to the horizon. Suddenly a tangle of exhaust stacks, silos, and kilns pierces the sky to the left of the aircraft as Dangote Cement Plc’s Obajana plant comes into view. It’s already the biggest in Africa, churning out enough sacks of cement to fill 1,000 trucks a day. A fifth production line now under construction will make it one of the world’s largest.


The cement plant and its two sister factories in Nigeria have long been the bedrock of Dangote’s fortune, Africa’s biggest. But Dangote’s future—and, as he likes to say, that of the entire continent’s economy—lies to the south on the Nigerian coast. About 40 miles east of Lagos, on more than 6,700 acres of former swampland bound by a lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, contractors are putting the finishing touches on a fertilizer plant valued at $5 billion. Next to it, construction of a vast oil refinery—a $12 billion project—is underway.



The site for the Dangote refinery at Ibeju-Lekki in Nigeria’s Lagos State.





If all goes according to plan, the complex will immortalize the 61-year-old Nigerian businessman as Africa’s most prominent industrialist, vaulting Dangote Industries’ annual revenue from $4 billion to about $30 billion, roughly 8 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product. Oil industry experts such as London-based CITAC have questioned the project’s timeline, citing logistical and financial challenges. But Dangote insists the refinery, which will be Africa’s largest, is on track. “By 2020 I will finally dispatch oil,” he says during a January interview at his Lagos home.


Despite controlling the world’s 10th-largest oil reserves, Nigeria has only four aging, inefficient state-owned refineries, leaving it almost wholly reliant on imports for its fuel needs. Dangote says his massive refinery could end that dependency and lift electricity generation in a nation plagued by blackouts: “It will change the entire economy of Nigeria.”

Also see: This Man Built One Of Ghana’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Businesses From “Nothing”


The fertilizer plant, which Dangote says will come online in a few months, will be capable of producing up to 2.8 million metric tons of urea a year. “It’s probably the largest-volume urea plant ever executed at one time,” says Alistair Wallace, head of fertilizer research at Argus Media in London. Nigeria’s natural gas prices are the lowest in the world, meaning Dangote’s fertilizer will likely be profitable even in the competitive export market. “It will generate hard currency and bring in dollars. It will be a good look for the administration and for Dangote,” Wallace says.




Born into a wealthy Muslim family of traders in the north, Dangote incorporated his own business selling cement at 21. He shifted to manufacturing the building material in the 1990s, convinced his homeland, the world’s seventh-most-populous country, could meet its own demand for staples. Dangote factories churning out sugar, flour, and salt followed. A vertical integration push gave rise to other businesses, including oil, property management, packaging, and port operations.


Four publicly traded companies under the Dangote Industries umbrella account for about a third of the value of the Nigerian stock exchange. While shares of Dangote Cement tumbled 26 percent in the past year amid a sell-off in emerging markets, the fertilizer plant has helped boost Dangote’s net worth to $17 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (No value is attributed to the refinery in Bloomberg’s analysis because it’s still under construction.)

A Dangote Cement truck on the Eko Bridge in Lagos Island.

In many ways, Dangote’s ascent recalls that of Gilded Age tycoons such as Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who accumulated great fortunes as they created industries. While the emergence of a new generation of business titans that includes’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has drawn attention to rising income inequality in the U.S. and elsewhere, Dangote’s net worth is particularly disproportionate to the lot of ordinary Nigerians, almost half of whom live in extreme poverty.


Critics have attacked him for holding much of his wealth offshore and say he’s a shrewd monopolist who has plied his political connections to secure an advantage over competitors. They claim his market-dominating cement company squeezes local consumers with prices three times the global average while slashing prices in neighboring markets to crush rivals. A World Bank report published in 2016 found that African cement prices averaged $9.57 per 50-kilogram bag, compared with $3.38 globally. Dangote’s cement business has also been accused of exploiting a government-run investment promotion program to secure generous tax breaks.


Dangote shrugs off such criticism, while preaching the gospel of markets as the best way to narrow the divide between the haves and have-nots. “China in 30 years has taken almost 500million people out of poverty, he says.


Soft-spoken and unfailingly polite, he offers up his chair in meetings to guests and serves food for others during a lunch in an office conference room. But the courteous chief executive officer is also a hard-driving manager. “ ‘Not possible’ aren’t words he understands,” says Giuseppe Surace, chief operating officer of the refinery project, as our convoy of Toyota Land Cruisers sets off on a four-hour tour of the site. “In his own way, he is very tough.”

Nigeria’s $376 billion economy is, by some measures, Africa’s largest, but the operational challenges for companies are also outsize. The World Bank assigns the country a lowly score of 53 on ease of doing business (Kenya gets a 70, and South Africa a 66). Besides an overabundance of red tape and weak protections for investors, the country is perceived to be more corrupt than many of its neighbors. Nigeria’s chronic logistical logjams, infrastructure failings, and political risk are why CITAC says Dangote’s 2020 timeline for the refinery may not be feasible.


Even the so-called smart money has stumbled here. Five years after pledging to invest $5 billion in infrastructure alongside Dangote, Blackstone Group LP is in the process of exiting an African subsidiary called Black Rhino Group because of a dearth of suitable opportunities, a person familiar with the matter has said. KKR & Co. disbanded its Africa deal team in 2017.


Dangote, for his part, has decades of experience negotiating Africa’s pitfalls. Yet even by the continent’s standards, the refinery project could be characterized as a heavy lift. Dangote Industries bought the plot for $100million at the end of 2013, but it ultimately took almost three yearsand many truckloads of sandto prepare the swampy ground for construction. The company erected a jetty and widened and reinforced roads to accommodate shipments of cranes and other equipment. 

Dangote’s existing empire gives him advantages. The new refinery is a big customer of Dangote Cement, and the roads to and from the surrounding quarries are clogged with his trucks. Also, his timing was fortuitous. The project geared up during a recession, giving him more bargaining power over contractors keen to land work. Plus its location inside a free-trade zone means the complex should be better insulated from the Nigerian political scene, according to Dangote’s lieutenants. “We’re an island,” says Surace, an Italian who previously worked at oil services company Saipem.


Talk to ordinary Nigerians and plenty crack smiles at the mention of Dangote, who’s featured in internet memes, while a recent single by Nigerian singer Teni plays on his wealth. It’s the kind of name recognition any politician would envy. Results from Nigeria’s Feb. 23 general election, which was marred by delays, technical glitches, and violence that killed at least 39 people, saw President Muhammadu Buhari beat his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar. But Dangote, who’s long avoided playing political favorites and deflected questions on the election throughout the campaign, says he’s not interested in governing. “If I exit from business and go into politics, nobody can actually sit in Dangote Group and take the kind of risk that I can, because I’m the owner,” he says. “My real job is to see how do I transform Nigeria and Africa and to take this kind of risk.”


While Dangote has confined his business activities to Africa so far, he expects to expand beyond his home continent after revenue tops $30 billion. There’s not “capacity to be able to invest that kind of money just in Africa,” he says.


Signs of his burgeoning fortune abound. His namesake foundation spends as much as $100 million a year on projects such as hospitals and malnutrition, according to its CEO Zouera Youssoufou. Dangote’s offices feature photos of him with Bill Gates and Barack Obama, and he says he’s in the process of setting up a family office that will have outposts in London and New York. Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein is helping set it up and the unit will invest alongside the private equity firm, Dangote said. Rubenstein, who hosts a show on Bloomberg Television, declined to comment.


“It’s very much on paper now,” Dangote says.

Aliko Dangote during a visit to the fertilizer plant under construction in Lagos State.

He could even acquire that archetypal billionaire trinket: a professional sports team.


An Arsenal fan, Dangote says he’s prepared to stomach the multibillion-dollar price tag the English soccer club would command once the refinery is finished.


“I will go aggressively after Arsenal,” he says.

 For now, though, his focus is on the vast project taking shape on the Atlantic coast.  

The last time I see Dangote, it’s past midnight at his Lagos home. He’s sitting at the head of the dining room table, near a barely touched bowl of fish stew and a chunky Casio calculator. He turns his head, with closely cropped hair flecked with gray, toward the accounts in front of him. 

He’s absorbed. Seconds tick by in silence, then minutes. Finally he’s satisfied. He signs off and—ever the host—patiently fields a few more questions before seeing me and his other guests out before heading to bed. 

Waiting for my ride, I turn back and see Dangote, the $17 billion man, climbing the stairs. 

He’s back on the phone, still working.  

With assistance from Paul Wallace. Source: Bloomberg



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This Man Built One Of Ghana’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Businesses From “Nothing”

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From owning one of Ghana’s top pharmaceutical companies, delving into Insurance and Media, Mr Samuel Amo Tobbin is in the league of Ghana’s most successful business leaders.

Today, his empire has under its umbrella, seven autonomous thriving companies including, Tobinco Pharmaceuticals, Entrance Pharmaceuticals & Research Centre, Atinka Media Village, Abii National Savings and Loans, Priority Insurance, DOR Events and Toblues Properties.

He is also known for his philanthropic initiatives through his charity organisation, the Samuel Amo Tobbin Foundation with focus on education, health, social safety, economic and livelihood empowerment since its establishment in 2015.

His status as people have come to know today is a far cry from his impoverished childhood.

Growing up in Accra New Town, he had an early hinge on entrepreneurship and started selling plastic bags (polythene bags), to support his family.

Running between school and selling, he often lacked essential materials for school but soldiered on, trading in table cloths, plastic bags and storybooks.

His breakthrough would come after meeting a man who supported his trade with erstwhile GH¢10.00 now GH¢1.00 and subsequently grounded him in the pharmaceutical business.

Still focused on his core strength-selling, Amo Tobbin shifted from his previous merchandise to selling drugs such as paracetamol, ampicillin and others.

Ever heard the Bible quotation that says, “Do not despise small beginnings”?

Related: Tony Elumelu's Story: From Salesperson to Net worth of $USD 700 million dollars

Currently, he is one of Ghana’s top business and respected leaders spanning several industries, with over two decades of experience and a growing staff.

As with most success stories, his journey hasn’t been clear sailing.

In 2013, he had a tussle with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), when the FDA raised an alarm over alleged counterfeit drugs being imported by the company. The FDA seized 100 types of drugs from Tobinco Pharmaceuticals and a ban was placed on the importation of identified drugs.

Tobinco Pharmaceuticals hit back to discredit those assertions from the regulatory body. The Company was subsequently marred in lawsuit further degenerating into financial losses.

His workers were particularly badly hit as it was reported that about 600 employees lost their jobs.

By 2014, the case had subsided, customer confidence regained and business started taking shape.

In all these, he never forgets his humble beginnings neither does he mince words on his poor background.

He once explained in an interview why he opted to celebrate his 50th birthday with the underprivileged in society.

“This is where I came from, I was from a poor home, very deprived area, we were eleven children, my parents had nothing and this is my route. So if by the grace of God I have become a “big man” in Ghana, it is an indication for me to support them,”

Tobinco pharmaceuticals, foresee a future of immense local production and tap into the sub-regional market as the global pharmaceutical industry has largely untapped opportunities.

A Study, Ghana Business Development Review Report, released by the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), revealed that the pharmaceuticals industry is expected to reach $1 billion in value by end of 2018, however, around 70 percent of pharmaceutical products in the country are imported.

These imports, according to the report, are largely from India and China leaving local manufactures to struggle for a paltry 30%.

Also, the Business Research Company pegged the global pharmaceuticals market worth at $934.8 billion in 2017 which is also estimated to reach $1170 billion in 2021.

Now back to Tobinco.

Although a household name, with businesses in many sectors, the Holy Grail has been pharmaceuticals.

omewhere between helming several businesses, he finds time to do God’s work.

He is the Presiding Elder at the Church of Pentecost, Dr. Thomas Wyatt Assembly, New Town District.


Ghana Pharma awards

2015    Top Anti-malaria Brand of the Year 2014      Top Brands

2015    Lonart – CIMG Product of the Year 2014     CIMG

2012    Marketing Oriented Company of the Year 2011        CIMG

2011    Marketing Man of the Year 2010       CIMG

……    Gold Sponsorship Award       GMA

2008    Alaxin – The Most Trusted Brand      PMDAG


By Pamela Ofori-Boateng/Business World Ghana ©



Calvin Mathibeli's Story: From Garden Boy to Millionaire


Mike Adenuga's Story: From Taxi Driver and Security Guard to a Billionaire

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Name: Mike Adenuga

CEO/Founder: Globacom Limited
Chairman: Conoil Producing Ltd 
Age: 66
Nationality: Nigerian 
Net worth: US$9.4 billion


He was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, in 1953 to a low-income family. His father was a school teacher while his mother was a businesswoman.

He received his secondary school education at Ibadan Grammar School and Comprehensive High School for his Higher School Certificate (HSC)

In his late teens, he left for the United States to study Business Administration at Northwestern University and Pace University.
He worked as a taxi driver and a security guard at night to pay for his education.

After completing his studies, he returned home to Nigeria and inherited a small Sawmill operation from his father.

He worked at the sawmill but at the same time ventured into commodity trading such as Coca-Cola and the importation of lace materials.

“I went on a trip to New York and when I was coming back, I missed my flight on British Airways. So I had to fly Swiss Air and I sat next to the owner of one of the biggest lace manufacturing factories in Austria. So, we were talking and he got me into the business of importing lace, and all sort of things.”

In 1979 at the age of 26, he made his first US$1 million through the commodity trading and the importation of lace materials.

Still, in his twenties, he ventured into the construction business.

He had some influential friends in his circles. With the help of Ibrahim Babangida, the former military president of Nigeria he was able to land lucrative government construction contracts, which he delivered. He soon built a reputation for quality service and prompt delivery and earned the trust of several top-ranking government officials. It was not long before he cemented his position as a top government contractor, and bigger contracts followed.

In 1989 he applied for a banking license and founded Devcom Bank, one of Nigeria’s earliest merchant banks. A year later, he founded Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB), which has grown to become one of the country’s most successful commercial banks.



In 1984, he founded Consolidated Oil, the predecessor of Conoil Producing, as an integrated upstream oil and gas company in Lagos, Nigeria.

In 1990, he received a drilling license and Consolidated Oil became the first Nigerian indigenous company to strike crude in the shallow waters of Southwestern Ondo State on December 1991.

Conoil Producing is now one of Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil companies with at least 6 producing deep offshore assets and daily production of over 100,000 barrels per day.

In 2000, in the wake of a government-engineered privatisation exercise, he acquired a controlling stake in National Oil and Chemical Marketing Company Plc (NOLCHEM), a petroleum marketing company.

Within a year, he turned around the fortunes of the company. NOLCHEM, which he subsequently renamed Conoil PLC. It is now one of Nigeria’s largest petroleum marketers. Conoil has over 1200 retail outlets spread across Nigeria and is one of the top companies at the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The company has a market capitalization in the region of $200 million.

In 2005, following a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s directive that required all banks to raise their capital base to N25 billion, he merged Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) with Devcom to meet the new recapitalization requirements. The merged banks adopted the Equitorial Trust Bank name, and for a while, it was one of the largest banks in Nigeria before Adenuga opted to sell it off in 2011 to Sterling Bank, a commercial bank in Nigeria.

In 2011, he acquired the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 30 onshore oil block which was previously owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPCC), after a reported winning bid of $1.3 billion.


In 2003, he founded his mobile phone network Globacom commonly known as GLO.His telecom company Globacom spread quickly and started challenging the giant MTN Group. It currently has operations in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic and Cote d’Ivoire and is arguably the fastest-growing telecoms operating in Africa with an active subscriber base in excess of 45 million making it the second-largest network operator in Nigeria. It employs over 3,000 employees.

In 2010, Adenuga spent over $1 billion on Glo 1 Submarine Cable, an undersea cable system, which stretches from Europe to Nigeria and has landing stations in 16 West African countries. Glo 1 provides bandwidth to all telecom operators, carriers and corporations, connecting them to all the major destinations in the world.

The submarine cable system is 9,800 km long, and became operational in 2011 with a minimum capacity of 640 Gbit/s.

He is also the single largest property owner in Nigeria and also owns an extensive property portfolio in Ghana, South Africa, France, U.K and the United States. --- Source Mind Your Own Business -MYOB




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Tony Elumelu's Story: From Salesperson to Net worth of $USD 700 million dollars

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Name: Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu 


▪︎Heirs Holdings
▪︎Tony Elumelu Foundation
Former CEO: The United Bank for Africa (UBA)
Age: 56
Nationality: Nigerian
Net worth: $USD 700 million dollars.



 Educational Background 

▪︎Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Ambrose Alli University 
▪︎Master of Science degree in Economics from 
University of Lagos
▪︎ Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School

He was born in Plateau State, Nigeria on 22 March 1963. He hails from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria.

He started his career as a copier salesman who was young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that he was just one of the thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed.

He credits his success to hard work, resilience, a long-term vision – but also luck.

In 1990 at the age of 27, he applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank.
A year later after earning his Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos,

The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1 degree (Second Class, upper-division), but he applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out the application with his 2:2 Economics degree (Second Class, lower division)

"I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more," his cover letter read.

This words caught the eye of the Chairman/CEO at the time, who decided to give him a chance despite being "unqualified".

He was hired as an entry-level analyst after passing the due process.

Within 12 months at the bank, he went from analyst to branch manager – the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. This position laid the foundation for the rest of his career

In 1997 at the age of 34, he registered his presence in Nigeria’s financial services industry, when he led a small group of investors to take over a distressed medium-sized commercial bank in Lagos. The acquired bank was subsequently renamed Standard Trust Bank (STB).

The following year, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the bank. He was only 34 at the time and the youngest CEO of a commercial bank in Africa’s most populated country.

Between 1998 and 2005, he restored STB to profitability, expanding its retail network around the country and introducing a diverse range of financial services to the institution.

By 2005, STB had become one of the 5 largest commercial banks in the country. That same year, he orchestrated one of the largest mergers in Nigerian corporate history when he united STB and the United Bank of Africa (UBA), Nigeria’s 3rd-largest bank at the time.

The merged bank adopted the UBA name, and Elumelu was appointed as Chief Executive of the bank.

Within ten years as CEO of the institution, he helped grow the bank from a single-country bank into a diversified Pan-African financial services institution. He set up branches of UBA in over 20 African countries and established operations in the United Kingdom and the U.S.A with a staggering customer base of more than seven million customers from African countries alone.

In 2010, He stepped down as CEO of the bank following a Central Bank directive limiting the tenure of bank chiefs to 10 years. But by the time he had vacated the CEO job, he had built the UBA Group into a $2 billion (market capitalization) financial services behemoth with over $12 billion in assets and over 10,000 employees.

In the same year, he founded a foundation under his name. The Tony Elumelu Foundation is an Africa-based and -funded not-for-profit institution, dedicated to the promotion and celebration of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship across Africa.


It offers a platform that empowers African entrepreneurs– from business management training to mentoring, to funding to networking – championing their cause and giving them a global voice to actualize their ambitions. For this reason, he launched the USD$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

In the same year, he also founded Heirs Holdings. Heirs Holdings is an African investment company committed to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic prosperity and social wealth. It invests in the financial services, energy, real estate, infrastructure, hospitality, agribusiness, healthcare sectors, oil and gas.

Below listed are a few other of the positions he holds:

▪︎ Advisor to the USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa (PCGA) Partners Forum.
▪︎Membership of the President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC).
▪︎Vice-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN).
▪︎Co-chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security.
▪︎He also chairs the Ministerial Committee to build reputable hospitals and diagnostic centres across Nigeria.
▪︎Membership of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) and USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partners Forum.

▪︎The title of Member of the order of the Federal Republic (MFR), a national honour which was conferred on him in 2003.
▪︎He was voted African Business Leader of the Year by African Investor magazine in 2006 and was also recognized as the African Banker of the Year in 2008 by the same magazine.
▪︎President Umaru Musa Yar’adua asked him to serve on the Presidential Committee on the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.
▪︎He has decorated the highly esteemed National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) for his service in promoting private enterprise in 2012.
▪︎In 2012 New African magazine featured him in their list of the “100 Moat Influential Africans in Business”.
▪︎He received the Leadership Award in Business and Philanthropy from the Africa-America Institute (AAI) Awards in 2013.
▪︎Also in 2013, he was named African Business Icon at the 2013 African Business Awards.
▪︎In April 2016 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at At the 5th edition of the annual Economic Forum of the Ivorian National Council of Employers, CGECI Academy, (CGECI) in

Net Worth
His net worth is about $USD 700 million dollars. This places him as not only one of the richest in Africa but also in the world. He has properties across Nigeria and a marginal stake in mobile telecom firm MTN Nigeria to mention a few of his assets.

What advice would you give an African trying to pursue their dreams despite the conditions around them?

▪︎Dreams are good, Dreams are great as long as you are ready to put in the work to see them come true.

▪︎"Your aspirations and yearnings are normal… It's okay to want more. But you must remember that you must deserve more to desire more. You must put in the hours, the long nights, the sacrifice, and the diligence. While it is okay to yearn for more, you must work hard enough to earn the promotion, the pay rise, the title change, the salary increases etc."

▪︎"Have a clear picture of the destination you desire but instead of letting frustration set in, let those desires become the fuel that drives you to attain your goals.

▪︎ Save Money Religiously- I am a firm believer in saving a portion of your earnings on a monthly basis. My father used to say that if I couldn't save one naira from the little I earned, then I won’t be able to save anything if I earned one billion. Saving is a vital tool in investing in your future.

▪︎Work Hard- The difference between talent and hard work is that one is innate and the other can be acquired through sheer determination. Those who are relentless in the pursuit of excellence will always yield results. Growing up, my mother was extremely hard working and through running her businesses she taught me the power of resilience.

▪︎Seize Opportunities- Be aware of your risk tolerance and weigh up the value of an opportunity according to the potential losses and gains. After assessment- act! Do not be afraid to take a step because you fear the outcome. As the saying goes, fortune favours the bold.
▪︎Feed Your Mind- In the pursuit of success, arm yourself with people and things that will nourish you mentally. I was always an avid reader and would seek business and self-development books, articles and papers that would challenge my thinking and allow me to gain insight and breed new ideas.

▪︎Think Long Term- In all that you do, consider the bigger picture. How will this impact me, my family and community? Both now and 10 years from now. Be broad in your thinking and whether personally or professionally, aim for longevity.

If you have a start-up business or an idea that you are ready to see come to fruition, apply for the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship programme when the portal opens  Source: Mind Your Own Business - MYOB




Calvin Mathibeli's Story: From Garden Boy to Millionaire

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Name: Calvin Mathibeli

CEO/Founder: Calvin and Family Group (CFG) 
Age: 31
Nationality: South African

Educational Background 
▪︎ He has a Diploma in Taxation and Accounting from Durban University of Technology 
▪︎He also has a Public Administration degree from Mancosa

The company owns over 10 business subsidiaries and employs over 1,000 people.

Background Story:

He was born on 4th may 1988 and comes from a childhood filled with hardship and poverty, yet he refused to let his circumstances define him.

At the age of 13, he was doing people's gardens over the weekend to pay for his school uniform.

To further support himself and his family,he explains: “There was a lady who was a pig farmer in our community who would fetch the food thrown out by one of the larger supermarkets in order to feed her pigs. I would help her pack the food and in return, she would let me take the food that was still reasonably good. We had no food at home, so this was a blessing. I would get home, boil it up and my family could then have dinner.”

He also sold oranges to contribute to his single mother’s income.

He completed his secondary education and enrolled at Durban Institute of Technology to pursue a career in Accounting.


In order to fund his studies, accommodation and living costs, he spent his days as a student and the evenings as a businessman selling cell phone accessories at The Wheel in Mahatma Gandhi Road, Durban, after identifying a market demand in the evenings.

He would walk from Durban south beach to the Tech every day and saw an opportunity to service the needs of tourists in the area who often required cell phone repairs or accessories such as charges, batteries, covers, etc. after the main shops had closed."

He decided to gamble with the R500 savings that he had to buy stock and persuaded a store-owner to give him a small space to set up shop.

His business focus changed when one of his cell phone repair customers, impressed by his initiative, offered to mentor him in township property development.

"With the little money I had saved I started to buy and sell land in the township areas. After I acquired enough capital, I started to buy and then develop the land prior to selling," said Mathibeli.

In 2005, he established Calvin and Family Group (CFG) with a focus on the real estate property development.

During this time Mathibeli invested all his profits back into his business and was operating out of the boot of his car as well as from spaza shops.

In 2008, he opened his first office and his business has since grown to become one of the leading property developers.

The company has over 10 years experience in the property development and construction industry, specialising initially in residential development, and later branching out into commercial, retail, industrial and civil development. They have also started building low-cost housing and schools. CFG has further diversified into other sectors such Security Services, Project Management, and Printing and Marketing.

In August 2016, they entered the hospitably division, by opening the Unique Lifestyle Cafe at The Square Boutique Hotel in the upmarket area of Umhlanga.

In the same year 2016, he launched the 5 000 jobs in five years campaign. This will be achieved by forming partnerships with small businesses in every corner of every township. The group has already invested over R4 million (USD$ 270,000) into this initiative and will continue to do so until the goal is reached. They are effectively providing a much-needed cash injection into the small businesses, whilst ensuring they are effective enough to hire and train people

Calvin and Family Group (CFG) entity owns over 10 business subsidiaries.

▪︎Black Pride Media
▪︎Unique Lifestyle Café
▪︎Calvin and Family Plant Hire
▪︎Urban Infrastructure Consulting
▪︎Calvin and Family Security
▪︎Unique Communications
▪︎Calvin and Family properties 
▪︎SA Precast Concrete
▪︎Wear Armour & Safety (PTY) LTD
▪︎Afri Foods
▪︎CFG Minerals 
▪︎Ecosmart Cleaning
▪︎The Levels Resort and Spa

What advice would you give an African trying to pursue their dreams despite the conditions around them?

▪︎I realised early that success is a choice, it’s not about luck.When I started I didnt have the money to start a business, but I had a vision

▪︎Saving money and constant improvement was key because “tomorrow is an opportunity to do better than today”.

▪︎Start small but dream big, you must be willing to work hard because the journey of life in business is never easy. What I have gone through is not easy. If you want to be successful, you must walk every step because each step prepares you for the future, so that when success catches up with you, it must come when you are prepared, it must never overwhelm you,” he said.

▪︎Young people must look for business everywhere and not only rely on government tenders as they are erratic with late payments.

“Don’t wait for government to make opportunities, tell your story your own way, do not expect anything to be done for you, work hard and work smart,” he said.

For more information: http:


--- Source: Mind Your Own Business - MYOB



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