Aliko Dangote and his slide from $25 billion to $7 billion

Not many can claim ignorance of the fact that Aliko Dangote is Africa’s richest man and has been for almost a decade.

What many do not know, however, is that despite remaining the richest man in Africa for nine consecutive years, Aliko Dangote of 2020 is not worth half as much as he was in 2014.

Dangote had been in business for more than a decade before deciding to transit from merely importing products to resell in the Nigerian market, to actually producing them in 1997. This was the year he set up a plant to produce what he had been importing in the previous years – sugar, salt, flour and pasta.

He also acquired a state-owned cement company – Benue Cement Company (BCC) – and set about expanding its operations. This marked the turn-around in his fortunes and that of Nigeria.

The next step was to list the companies in the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and this started in October 2010 with the listing of Dangote Cement. This must have been the game-changer for Dangote because, by the next year, his name was listed as number 1 in Forbes list of African billionaires.

By August 2014, Dangote Cement stocks were accounting for 20% of the total market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and the value of the stocks was growing astronomically.

Since then, Dangote has remained number 1 on the list, even though his position on the global ranking has not been too predictable.

The rest, as they say, is history.


But why don’t we take a look at history and see how the Billionaire’s fortunes have fared over the years.  

Dangote first became richest African in 2011, with a net worth of $13.8 billion, a major increase from $2.1 billion the previous year.

This placed him in the 51st position on the global ranking, and second in the Middle East and Africa, second only to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud who was worth $19.6 billion.

In March 2012, there was a slight decline to $11.2 billion.

In March 2013, his worth had risen to $16.1 billion, and by June 2013 Dangote went down in history as the first African entrepreneur to hit a personal net worth of $20 billion.

In February 2014, Aliko Dangote’s worth hit the highest ever at $25 billion.

Then the decline started.


In February 2015, his net worth dropped to about $22 billion.

In January 2016, Forbes reported that Dangote’s worth had dropped by $3 billion dollars between December 31, 2014 and December 31, 2015, placing his worth at $17 billion. Two months later, it dropped further to $14.4 billion.

By end of December 2016, Forbes reported that based on the stock prices and exchange rates at the time, Dangote was only worth $12.4 billion, making him one of the biggest billionaire losers for the year.

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In February 2017, the mogul’s worth was put at $12.1 billion; still first on Africa’s list of billionaires.

In January 2018, Dangote’s net worth was $12.2 billion, about $100 million dollars up from the previous year. At this time, he had started moving away from cement gradually and had made investments into fertiliser production as well as the oil refinery which is soon to start operations.

In March 2019, Dangote was worth $10.8 billion, after pocketing $650 million dividends from Dangote Cement Plc.

In February 2020, Forbes estimate and ranking showed that Dangote’s net worth had dropped by another $200 million from $10.3bn in the previous year to $10.1bn.

On 11th of April 2020, Forbes again announced that the billionaire’s worth had dropped to $7.4 billion, even though he was worth $8.3B only four days earlier. (Dangote currently worth $8 billion, as at April 16, 2020).

NOTE: Net worth of billionaires on Forbes, which reflects changes since 5pm EST prior trading day, changes based on their share values.

One has to wonder how the genius businessman has stayed as the richest man in Africa despite the several drops in his worth over the years.

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He is currently number 162 on Forbes list of billionaires around the world, and number 1 in Africa.


Why the fluctuations?

When Dangote’s net worth is to be calculated, the first thing to be considered apart from his personal stocks is stocks owned by the Dangote Industries Limited which he is a beneficial owner of. The DIL owns majority stocks across all subsidiaries in the Dangote Group, and added to Aliko Dangote’s personal stocks, one can see that Dangote’s net worth is largely reflective of the value of the stocks of the company in the Nigerian stock exchange.

For instance, as of March 2014 when his worth hit $25 billion, Forbes attributed it to the increasing value of the stock price of Dangote Cement Plc, making him $9 billion richer than he was a year earlier. The company had moved to become present in 15 African countries and its stock was up by 65%. However, this has changed in recent times, as the company’s stock price has also been on the decline.

According to our research findings,  the decline in this networth is due to the drop in the price of his shares in the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Nigerian stocks have largely falled over the years mostly due to the crash in oil prices that began in 2014.

Exchange Rate. 

Though the value of his stocks in the Nigerian bourse is an important factor, a more important and probably overriding determinant would be the exchange value of the naira to the dollar. Since the Forbes makes its estimates for global ranking purposes, the values have to be converted into the US Dollars for all the world billionaires.

According to Ajayi, the devaluation of the naira has played a critical role, because while he earns his money in naira, the ranking is done in dollars.

Ajayi was, however, optimistic that this trend would change for the billionaire as soon as the refinery kicks off operations.

“The refined products are going to be sold in dollar and I believe this would have a significant impact on his net worth. The oil refining business has a lot of dollar components and I think that is one of the attractions for him to go into that market,” he said.

Over the years, the exchange rate of the naira to the dollar has been quite volatile, and Dangote finds himself on the receiving end of this volatility since his stocks are in the naira market.

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A quick peek

  • In 2011, a dollar exchanged for N154.50, at about the same time Dangote’s net worth was $13.8 billion.
  • In 2012, an exchange of N157 to a dollar put his worth at $11.2 billion.
  • A dollar exchanged for N160 in 2013. At this time, Dangote was worth $20 billion.
  • In 2014, a dollar exchanged for an average of N164 and Dangote was worth $25 billion.
  • In 2015, the exchange went up to N199 to a dollar, while Dangote’s worth dropped to $22 billion.
  • In 2016, exchange was up to N300 to a dollar, and Dangote’s worth dropped again to $14.4 billion.
  • In 2017, exchange averaged between N359 to N362, while Dangote’s net worth was $12.1 billion.
  • In 2018, it was N364, and Dangote’s worth was $12.2 billion.
  • In 2019, it went as high as N391 to a dollar, while his net worth dropped to $10.8 billion.

The year 2020 has probably seen the most fluctuations in one quarter, as the first quarter of the year has seen the exchange rate sometimes soaring over N400 to a dollar, but never going below N360.

Aliko Dangote’s net worth started the year at $10.1 billion, declining later to $8.2 billion and currently $7.4 billion. The trend shows clearly that an appreciation in the value of the naira is more likely to give this billionaire a better ranking in the list of world’s billionaires.

Another investment expert, Mr Abimbola Olaniyi, opines that the decline of the billionaire’s net worth is significantly linked with the removal of some concessions which he enjoyed from the government before 2015.

According to Olaniyi, the billionaire had certain concessions in the area of cement production for the backward integration adopted by the government, which only allowed those with cement manufacturing plants to import cement. However, this concession was removed alongside others, putting Dangote at par with competitors and significantly affecting his net worth.

Well, considering that Dangote has investments in several unlisted firms, as well as some real estate investments which are not included in the net worth calculation since their value cannot be universally verified, one can safely conclude that his worth is well above yearly estimates drawn by Forbes.

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