The subject I am going to deal with today is meant to awaken the next African billionaires. The African continent is laden with limitless potential that needs to be appropriated. There is so much irony in looking to foreign nations as the pinnacle of wealth and success. We need to look inwards more and unlock the vast greatness domiciled on this continent. I have often remarked, as many do, that we do not even need foreign direct investment (FDI) to make it. My focus today will be on agriculture in Africa. I am fully convinced that the next crop of African billionaires will emerge from agriculture. So why is that not happening – let us talk.

African Billionaires Presently…

Recently as of 24 February 2021, Forbes released a list of the richest blacks in the world. Notably, Strive Masiyiwa came out at number 11 with a net worth of US$1.4 billion. Remarkably the richest black person in the world right now is Aliko Dangote from Nigeria – a net worth of US$11.5 billion. Another Nigerian, Mike Adenuga, sat at number 2 with a net worth of US$6.1 billion. There are actually 3 Nigerians in the top 5. It is worth noting how they eclipsed some big names such as Oprah Winfrey (who happens to be the only female in the top 10) and Michael Jordan. Worth mentioning also is Patrice Motsepe who sits at number 6 with a net worth of US$3.1 billion. If you are an analytical person, as I am certain, things begin to come to mind.

Areas Of Focus – Worth A Look

I am just going to work with the Top 5 African billionaires who are:

RankNameNet WorthCitizenshipSource
1.Aliko DangoteUS$11.5BNigeriaCement│Sugar
2.Mike AdenugaUS$6.1BNigeriaTelecom │Oil
3.Abdulsamad RabiuUS$4.8BNigeriaCement│Sugar
4.Patrice MotsepeUS$3.1BSouth AfricaMining
5.Strive MasiyiwaUS$1.4BZimbabweTelecom

Looking at that list you can begin to notice certain things worth exploring. For instance, there are 3 Nigerians in the Top 5 – why? There are possible things to explore in trying to answer that question. Of course, there is sugar there but all the other areas are not in agriculture – why? We have to interrogate why agriculture is not a common feature there. Those are some of the things I want to explore; there are inspirational insights you will draw from that.

Things Worth Noting

Why Nigerians?

There are many possible reasons and I might not be privy to all of them. However, there is one I can attribute to why there are 3 Nigerians in the Top 5. The short answer is the POPULATION. That is then compounded by having access to other large markets. Here is what I mean – Nigeria has a population of roughly 209.5 million people. Without looking at any other nation there is an enormous market just in Nigeria alone. This implies that if you tap into and spread your tentacles into regional and international markets it becomes easy to make billions. This would mean that if you operate from a small country you have to work much harder to tap into a huge market pool.

Take a look at Zimbabwe for example; our population is roughly 15 million people. This means Nigeria is almost 14 times bigger than Zimbabwe in terms of population. So Nigeria has a huge local market advantage over most countries in Africa. However, that serves as a lesson that if you are not based in Nigeria you have to work several times more to tap into a huge market pool. This is an important insight that has crucial implications for the need to throw away the ‘small businesses’ mindset.

Why Agriculture Is Not A Common Feature

It is somewhat strange why agriculture is not a common feature in the portfolios of the richest African billionaires. Well, Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga do have business interests in sugar cultivation and production but their other interests are bigger. Why is that so when agriculture is such a huge industry in Africa? Africa is endowed with arable land and a widely favourable climate. Why are we not seeing African billionaires emerging from just agriculture only?

There are many possible reasons but I will just highlight one which I think contributes. I have noticed that most farmers do not model their businesses for the global market. In other words, their businesses are usually tailored in such a way that they are confined to their respective countries or regions in their countries. Some do not even run their agricultural activities as a structured business. Their supply and value chains are usually not scalable and replicable to spread into the global market. Worse still if they are in low population countries it gets exacerbated by a small local market pool.

Several other factors get in the way too. For instance, nepotism and corruption cause certain individuals to get huge tracts of land that they do not fully utilize. I believe young enterprising and tech-savvy individuals must have easy access to land and all the support they need. In Zimbabwe, it is a tall order for young people to get land – this is so in several African countries actually. In Nigeria, there is a 39-year-old guy by the name of Rotimi Williams. He owns and runs the second largest rice farm in Nigeria – 45000 hectares. It is rare to come across such scenarios but it must be the common scenario in Africa. At the end of the day, you cannot expect to get billionaires out of agriculture because of all these factors and more.

Another issue is that most farmers are merely just producers and not value adders. There is more money to be realized by selling value-added products. It also makes it easier to expand your market onto the global stage. I am challenging us as young Zimbabweans to step up and step out. Let us become the next crop of billionaires in Africa.