Forbes Billionaires List of the wealthy has become an annual ritual. In the midst of excruciating poverty in Nigeria, the list is always received with mixed feelings. Resentment from the needy and happiness from those considered rich enough to make the annual lists. Bamidele Famoofo reports that what is more important to an average Nigerian is how impactful these billionaires’ riches have been in their lives.
While the rich in dollars celebrate their emergence on the Forbes Billionaires List published on an annual basis, what are the ways these rich men have been able to affect our lives with their fabulous wealth? Obviously, this is the question in the minds of the ordinary Nigerians, who can barely meet their daily needs. As the saying goes in some parts of the country, a rich man, who does not spend for his neighbour is indeed a poor man.
For the sake of those who may wonder what Forbes list is all about. It is basically a highly respected annual ranking by documented net worth of the world’s wealthiest billionaires compiled and published in March annually by the American business magazine Forbes.
The list was first published in March 1987. The total net worth of each individual on the list is estimated and is cited in United States dollars, based on their documented assets and accounting for debt. Royalty and dictators, whose wealth comes from their positions, are excluded from these lists. This ranking is an index of the wealthiest documented individuals, excluding and ranking against those with wealth that is not able to be completely ascertained.
In 2018, there was a record of 2,208 people on the list which included 259 newcomers mostly from China and the US; there were 63 people under 40 and it had a record number of 256 women. The average net worth of the list came in at US$4.1 billion, up US$350 million from 2017. Added together, the total net worth for 2018’s billionaires was US$9.1 trillion, up from US$7.67 trillion in 2017. As of 2018, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, had topped the list of 18 of the past 24 years, while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is ranked at the top for the first time and he became the first centibillionaire included in the ranking.
As the world’s wealth seem to be on the increase, wealth of African billionaires is shrinking. According to the report released recently, the number of African billionaires has shrunk to just 20, down from 23 a year ago. Four people fell off Forbes’ annual list of the continent’s richest since last year while one returned to the ranks after a four-year absence. All but four members of the list have smaller fortunes than a year ago.
For the eighth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is Africa’s richest person. His estimated $10.3 billion net worth, however, is nearly $2 billion less than a year ago, primarily due to a roughly 20 per cent drop in the stock price of Dangote Cement, his most valuable asset.
The continent’s second richest is Mike Adenuga, also of Nigeria, worth an estimated $9.2 billion. Adenuga owns Globacom, which is Nigeria’s third-largest mobile phone network, plus oil exploration firm, Conoil Producing, extensive real estate holdings in Nigeria and a network of 12,000 cellphone towers. His net worth has climbed dramatically from $5.3 billion in January 2018 as a result of more detailed information provided by him about his assets.
Abdulsamad Rabiu returned for the first time since 2015 into the lists with a net worth of $1.6 billion, thereby emerging as the third richest man in Nigeria. His assets include the BUA Group, which he runs and owns, and his Kalambaina Cement firm, which has been merged with the publicly traded Cement Company of Northern Nigeria.
Folorunsho Alakija is the fourth richest Nigerian and the second woman in this year’s African billionaires club. Her net worth, estimated to be $1.1 billion, comes from owning a stake in one of the most productive oil fields in Nigeria, currently operated by Chevron.
Some financial analysts have also queried Forbes lists, insisting that the magazine should always lay bare the parameters it uses to evaluate billionaires’ assets. They opined that relying solely on information provided by individuals may not really be detailed enough and may also be very subjective.
But how have these billionaires impacted the lives of their countrymen? What are they doing to lift people from the poverty cycle in a country adjudged to be among the poorest in the world?
This report, which beams light on Dangote, who is the richest man in the country and on the continent, shows how he has been giving back to the society and touching the lives of his countrymen.
Said to be the highest employer of labour, after the federal government, Dangote, last year endowed his foundation to the tune of $1.25 billion, representing 12 per cent of its current wealth, to focus on health, education, economic empowerment and disaster relief.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony of his foundation, he said the $1.25billion endowment, which is for the period of 10 years ($125million) annually, had made the foundation the biggest in the sub-Saharan Africa.
Part of the several philanthropic efforts of Dangote, which aims at empowering Nigerians, is the partnership between Dangote Foundation and the Bank of Industry (BOI). The private-public partnership established a N10 billion micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) fund, with a N5 billion initial provision to create one million direct jobs. While the Dangote Foundation committed N2.5 billion to the fund, BOI also contributed a matching fund of N2.5 billion to launch the fund, which is used for lending to identified groups/business owners in the informal sector of the economy in the six geo-political zones in the country.
The Aliko Dangote Foundation Micro-grant programme is another N10 billion programme designed to provide a N10,000 one-off grant to at least 1,000 vulnerable women, and in some cases, youths, in each of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across Nigeria. According to information made available by the foundation, N3.345 billion has been disbursed so far across Kano, Jigawa, Kogi, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Lagos, Niger and Nasarawa States.
Apart from funding start-ups and empowering the vulnerable women folks, the richest man in Africa through its foundation, is working closely with the ADF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio in Nigeria. The partnership is targeted at strengthening primary healthcare and making provisions for routine immunisation across Northern Nigeria. The initial project commenced in Kano and Bauchi states and in January 2016, four others states from the northern part of Nigeria, namely: Sokoto, Yobe, Kaduna and Borno were added as beneficiaries. A total of $10million was earmarked for the thriving project.
In addition, to complement government’s effort in providing access to quality healthcare services to the grassroots, ADF has spent a total of N127million in construction of units of primary healthcare centres across LGAs in Kano (N72million) and Yobe (N55million) states. The Dangote Foundation also supports a daily feeding of approximately 10,000 people in and around Kano metropolis at a cost of N1.2 billion per annum.
Dangote is contributing its quota to restore sanity in the failing educational sector in Nigeria. It recently constructed a N1.2billion Business School at the Bayero University Kano and male and female dormitories in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna state worth N880 million.
Construction of Dormitories and provision of power supply to Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil at the cost of N500 million and Dormitories in Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State has been achieved. The Aliko Dangote Complex within the premises of University of Ibadan Business School is said to be worth about N3 billion.