Aliko Dangote- $3,000
The Dangote Group was established as a small trading firm in 1977. Today, it is a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. Dangote has expanded to cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight. The Dangote Group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria and is a major supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. The Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to being the largest industrial group in Nigeria including Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour.
In July 2012, Dangote approached the Nigerian Ports Authorities to lease an abandoned piece of land at the Apapa Port, which was approved. He later built facilities for his flour company there. In the 1990s, he approached the Central Bank of Nigeria with the idea that it would be cheaper for the bank to allow his transport company to manage their fleet of staff buses, a proposal which was also approved.
In Nigeria today, Dangote Group with its dominance in the sugar market and refinery business is the main supplier (70% of the market) to the country’s soft drinks companies, breweries and confectioners. It is the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world, producing 800,000 tonnes of sugar annually. Dangote Group owns salt factories and flour mills and is a major importer of rice, fish, pasta, cement and fertiliser. The company exports cotton, cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seed and ginger to several countries. It also has major investments in real estate, banking, transport, textiles and oil and gas. The company employs over 11,000 people and is the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa.
Ashish Thakkar- $5,000
At 15, after the family had returned to Uganda, Thakkar sold a laptop to his dad’s friend, triggering the realization he could be a trader. His father gave him $5,000 start-up cash, and he started flying to Dubai to buy cheap computer products, which he sold from a tiny shop in central Kampala.
He expanded his business by setting up a Dubai-based company. He later started a packaging factory in Uganda and partnered with an Indian IT services company to help them gain entry in new markets across Africa, according to his websites.
Sudhir Ruparelia – $25,000
He moved to the United Kingdom with his parents in 1972 at the age of 16, when the dictator Idi Amin expelled all Asians from Uganda. He returned to Uganda in 1985, with US$25,000 earned from several casual jobs including working in supermarkets, factories, and butcheries. Ruparelia started selling beer and spirits imported from Kenya. In 1989, beer importation was banned to encourage local brewing of alcohol and he realised he could not make beer. But since his customers, who were mainly foreigners, paid him in foreign currency, he started Crane Forex Bureau, the first in Uganda. With his profits, Ruparelia ventured into other businesses, including forming Crane Bank in 1995. Later, he organized his businesses under the umbrella of the Ruparelia Group.