Lessons in African Entrepreneurialism with Aliko Dangote

Lagos-based Dangote Group represents one of Africa’s most successful conglomerates, with diversified activities in flour, sugar, cement, steel, and numerous other sectors. The Group’s business activities span over a dozen African countries like Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zambia, with projects in Asia also being explored. Founder of the organization Aliko Dangote has spearheaded a multi-million dollar charitable foundation that has provided post-famine aid to Niger, contributed to flood relief in Pakistan, and encouraged leadership training in Nigeria.

Dangote was introduced by Caroline Elkins, Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Center, professor of history and of African and African-American Studies. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer


Speaking in the Charles Hotel in October 2015, at an event sponsored by Harvard’s Center for African Studies, Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of Dangote Group, shared his vision for a vibrant and entrepreneurial Africa with the Harvard community. Dangote described some of the difficulties an entrepreneur faces in Africa: unreliable infrastructure, traveling obstacles, corrupt governments. But each had an eventual solution, aided by dogged determination. To solve energy problems, for example, factories had their own power supplies. He highlighted the untapped and under-recognized potential sub-Saharan African economies possess, despite the challenges they face. Drawing an overflow crowd from Harvard and beyond, Mr. Dangote prompted the largely student audience to consider business careers in Africa and find ways to tap into the Continent’s many resources.

Dangote’s talk constituted the inaugural Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie African Business and Entrepreneurship Lecture. This annual lecture is co-sponsored by the Harvard Center for African Studies and the Africa Business Club at Harvard Business School. Over 220 students, scholars, faculty members, business leaders, and journalists, from across the Harvard community and beyond, attended Mr. Dangote’s talk, moderated by Caroline Elkins, Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Harvard Center for African Studies and Professor of History and of African & African American Studies.