“I am someone who doesn’t switch off my phone,” said Aliko Dangote. “My phone is on 24 hours.”
Dangote is the richest man in Africa, worth $11.2 billion according to Forbes magazine, and is the founder and CEO of the Dangote Group, the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa with interests in cement, food products, oil, fertiliser, banking and transportation, to name a few. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the company has operations in 13 other African countries and is the only Nigerian company on the Forbes Global 2000 Companies list.
During a recent lecture at the Lagos Business School, Dangote shared his experiences and advice with both budding and established entrepreneurs. So what does a working day look like for Dangote?
“My day is not really very structured because of several issues,” he said. “The demand of my time is really extremely high, especially in Nigeria you have a lot of ceremonies, and unnecessary ones.”
Dangote receives numerous invites to weddings, conferences and other functions on a daily basis and tries – where possible – to make at least a 20 minute appearance at each event. The same goes for travelling. When attending business meetings or conferences in other countries, he can’t afford to waste time. “Sometimes I go all the way from here [Nigeria] to China, and spend only five hours in China and come back,” explained Dangote. “That’s why I don’t take my private jet to China because the pilots need hours to rest, and the hours that they need, which is nine hours to rest, I don’t have nine hours. So I have to take Emirates.”
Dangote said he starts his work days around 5am. During this time he can be very productive and get a lot done, including a 6am haircut if needed. He also said he tries to fit in time to exercise most mornings, which helps him prevent stress. “Exercise is better than any medicine I can take,” he said during the lecture. “Exercise and sleep.”
While it’s a popular view that humans need roughly eight hours of sleep a day, Dangote said he only needs four or five hours. “But I feel okay because for four or five hours I sleep very deeply,” he explained. “It is a very sound sleep and I don’t need 6-8 hours.”
Travelling has also prevented a specific sleeping pattern and Dangote has learnt to sleep when he can to prevent being jet-lagged. “I sleep more flying than in my bed.”
Dangote also said he has trained himself not to let stress or worry affect his sleep, a talent he recommends others train themselves in. “Even if someone had to tell me I would die tomorrow, I would still sleep.”
Depending on the agenda for the day, Dangote usually arrives at work at 8am. He will then work at least a good 12 hours, and get home around roughly 9pm. The hard work has meant sacrificing time for himself and he said he hasn’t taken a vacation in 14 years.
So with time being a precious resource, how does the richest man in Africa spend whatever free time he has to relax? He likes to drive himself around and chat with his friends. “My only enjoyment is to sit around and talk with my friends, and exercise, I like to exercise, and if people are doing weddings or whatever I like to show up for 10-20 minutes and then I go.”