In the tale of King Midas, the King asked the greek god Dionysus that everything he touch turn to gold. Midas’s story was a cautionary tale of the perils of avarice. Midas’s incessant lust for gold nearly cost him everything that was truly valuable; even his own daughter. Midas was relieved from his suffering when he cried out to Dionysus to remove the curse of the golden touch. Dionysus moved by the King’s prayer, did so. Midas’s atonement for his greed resulted in the redemption of both he and his people. As a result, he shared his immense wealth with his people and they led a prosperous life. When he finally died, his people mourned him as the greatest king that ever lived.
It appears that in American Capitalism, the curse of the golden touch is reaching epidemic proportions. As more and more wealth is increasingly centralized into fewer hands, large sectors of the economy teeter on the brink of implosion. One of its most powerful conundrums is its’ inability to reconcile the warring ideals of morality and self interest. While American Capitalism produces some unintended marginal benefits for the collective, it distinctly places the self as lord and master above the masses. Private interests reign supreme while the masses are sentenced to a life of toil in service to feudal lords; as they attempt to earn their daily bread.
But in the land where time began, a new pantheon of gods are rising to challenge the global titans of finance and industry for capitalist supremacy. Their Zeus is Aliko Dangote. With a net worth of 13.8 billion dollars, he carries the enviable distinction of being Africa’s wealthiest man. He is the majority shareholder in his own cement company (Dangote Cement). His company produces 44 million metric tons of cement yearly and plans to increase its output 33% by 2020. He also has significant interests in publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Just shy of 61 yrs of age as of April 10th, he comes in at 100 on the Forbes list of billionaires.
Nigerian by birth, he is the child of affluent Muslim parents in Kano, Nigeria. While most famous western billionaires are products of north eastern colleges or cultures, Dangote was educated in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned a degree in Business Administration. Thus his wealth and power possess an indigenously African aura. Like all great entrepreneurs, his hustle skills kicked in during his formative years, where he purchased boxes of sweets and sold them at a profit.
He started small by getting a loan from his uncle in the amount of $2500.00. His herculean business acumen allowed him to repay the loan in 3 months. From the moment he entered the great game, his ambitions were global. He began his empire with a small trading firm in 1977, before embarking on a continental expansion into refinery and sugar businesses in neighboring countries. His vision took him to Thailand and Brazil where he imported rice and sugar, and sold the goods in Nigeria at a huge profit. Thus, he was in the “black” from his very first big business venture.
But the initial sweet taste of success did little to dull his ethereal drive to power. He expanded by creating sugar, pasta, and flour manufacturing plants. With this sweet tooth, it wasn’t long before Dangote became the biggest sugar supplier in Nigeria. His company controls about 70% of the Nigerian sugar market and is the third-largest sugar refinery in the world . It is estimated that it manufactures a whopping 8,000,000 tons of sugar a year.
But, you would be a narrow minded cretin to believe that he is unilateral in his approach to business. This man’s vertical integration game is stellar. Dangote invested in the National Salt Company of Nigeria and created his own salt-manufacturing outlets in the country. It is a kind of trans-pacific partnership with the Atlantic Salt and Chemical Corporation in Los Angeles, CA. The Federal Military Government of Nigeria was the majority shareholder before Dangote’s arrival on the scene. Upon his purchase, he increased the average daily production of salt to 600,000 metric tons per year. Today, this company is presently traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
For all of his wealth and power, Dangote stands in striking contrast to western capitalists in that he truly appears to be about the life of collective prosperity for the citizens of his native land. He is quite literally, the true embodiment of Black Power. According to the Nigerian Government, he is the single largest employment provider for Nigerians in the country. In addition to investing millions of dollars through his foundation for education and healthcare, he provides scholarships to destitute students and builds homes and roads. Dangote has made it extremely clear that not only would he not allow countries apart from Nigeria to benefit from his wealth, but that he would also invest all of his profits exclusively in Nigeria. When is the last time you heard that from a western capitalist?
Dangote is a most peculiar anomaly in the ranks of capitalism. While western, predominately white, capitalists seem to have an rapacious appetite for despotic and corrupt regimes, Dangote actively avoids them. He halted construction on a 100 billion dollar cement firm when he reportedly learned of the presence of Kenyan officials; that put greed and personal interests over the national interests of the country. With that bit of business on hold, Dangote has now turned his attention to Zimbabwe and the Presidency of Emmerson Mnangagwa, where he is pursuing a 1.5 billion investment in the country.
Financial analysts predict Dangote’s investment will present opportunities for wealth creation and jobs. Pundits have stated that his investments give great validity to the new administration in the country. Egads! What madness is this? A moral capitalist whose presence gives confidence and stability to a new government? In the west, our first association with capitalism is an ethic that depends on a ruthless value system which turns its practitioners into repugnant rogues in pursuit of profit.
Many of us grew up playing the Parker Bros classic game, Monopoly. A game where the only way to win is to decimate your opponents by reducing them to a state of abject poverty. As a result, those without money quickly find themselves going to jail with only the community chest to bail them out. Aliko Dangote gives us a vision of capitalism where one’s wealth is based on how well you serve your community. This is a vision that Marxists thought impossible. Their myopic proclamation is an obvious indictment of their appalling ignorance of both African philosophy and history. Dangote’s huge investments on the continent is a resounding affirmation of the African proverb: “I am because we are!”
Unlike Midas, Dangote’s touch is uniquely African. In that context, he possesses the blessings of opulence without the tragedy of avarice. But like Midas, his prosperity benefits the collective African populace. And like Midas, he is destined to be remembered as one of the greatest Kings in the history of the continent. Till next time, I’ll holla!
TONY MACEO is a Senior Blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com. Like, share and subscribe to the mailing list @powerandstrategy.com. Also subscribe to the You Tube Channel or like us on FB. You can become a patron @powerofstrategies on Patreon.