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The 10 Leading Family Businesses In Africa

March 10, 2014

Mfonobong Nsehe
 
Family businesses control a significant portion of Africa's economy. While family businesses are quite common across the continent, only a handful of them enjoy longevity. The survival rate of most African family businesses beyond the founder's generation is extremely low. For example, the late Nigerian business mogul Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, who at one point was believed to be one of the wealthiest men in Africa, successfully built one of Nigeria's biggest business empires consisting of an airline, a chain of newspapers, extensive real estate, fisheries and retail. After his death in 1998, his businesses crumbled. None of them exist today.

I set out to produce a list of 10 successful African family businesses, canvassing my database of African companies and entrepreneurs to find families that have successfully passed on business entities to successive generations. To do so, I enlisted a panel of 8 judges from across Africa to help identify African companies with annual revenues of $50 million or more, where the share capital controlled by the family members is in at least its second generation and the family controls at least 30% of the company's equity and voting rights.

Cut across luxury goods to construction, agriculture, banking and retail, these are the most successful African family businesses that have sustained the vision for decades and are poised to prosper for generations to come.

Remgro

Year Founded: 1941

Founder: Anton Rupert

Country: South Africa

In 1941, Anton Rupert, an Afrikaner South African businessman, started manufacturing cigarettes from his garage with a £10 investment. Rembrandt, the cigarette company he founded, went on to become one of Africa's largest tobacco firms. As Rembrandt grew, Rupert subsequently diversified the company from tobacco manufacturing into the industrial and luxury branded goods sectors. In 1988, his son Johann joined Rembrandt, splitting it into two divisions – Remgro, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed investment company with holdings in the banking, healthcare and industrial sectors – and Richemont, a Swiss-based luxury goods company. Johann Rupert serves as Chairman of both companies and has been CEO of Richemont since 2010.


Pick n Pay

Year Founded: 1966

Founder: Raymond Ackerman

Country: South African

When Raymond Ackerman was fired from his position as a Managing Director at South African food retailer Checkers in 1966, he used his severance package to buy up three retail outlets in Cape Town which traded under the name Pick n Pay. Ackerman built Pick n Pay to become one of the most popular and largest retail outlets in South African by building a strong reputation as a consumer champion and fighting supplier cartels in bread, petrol, cigarettes and many other industries. Pick n Pay now has close to 800 stores in Southern Africa. Raymond Ackerman stepped down from his role as Executive Chairman of the company in 2010, giving way for his first son Gareth Ackerman to take over as Chairman. Gareth is still working hard to prove himself. Pick n Pay is the second largest grocer in South Africa, but in the last couple of years the company has lost significant market share to rivals such as Woolsworth and Shoprite while struggling to adopt new information technology and distribution systems. Pick N Pay is listed on the Johannesburg bourse, but it still remains a family business for the most part. The Ackerman Family trust owns 53% of the company's stock and Gareth's siblings occupy senior positions in the company: his sister, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, serves as Transformation Director at the company while Jonathan Ackerman is Executive Director.


Dantata Organization

Year Founded: 1910

Founder: Alhassan Dantata

Country: Nigeria

The Dantata Organization was founded around 1910 by the patriarch of the Dantata family, Alhassan Dantata, who started trading commodities such as kolanut, cocoa, beads and groundnuts in Lagos and Accra under the company name, Alhassan Dantata & Sons Limited. Upon Alhassan's death in 1955, the mantle on running the business fell on his 4 sons, named Mamuda, Sanusi, Ahmadu, and Aminu. Of his four sons, only Aminu, his last son who is aged 82 is still alive. However, Aminu's eldest son, Tajudeen Aminu Dantata is now in charge of the overall family business. He took the reins of the business in 1988, starting off as Group Director in Dantata Organisations Limited, a position he held until he was appointed Group Managing Director in 1994. The Dantata Organization is a large conglomerate with interests in oil exploration, manufacturing, banking and finance, import and export, farming as well as merchandising and commodity trading. Companies in the group's fold include Dantata & Sawoe Construction, a leading construction firm, Bebeji Oil & Allied Products Limited – a petroleum marketing company, Express Petroleum & Gas Company Limited- an oil exploration company, Dantata Property Development & Management and Kundila Finance Company among others. The group's annual revenues exceed $300 million annually.


Ibru Organization

Year Founded: 1957

Founder: Olorogun Michael Ibru

Country: Nigeria

Nigerian businessman Olorogun Michael Ibru started out in 1957 by importing and selling frozen fish from the back of a truck. As his fish trading business grew, he chartered his first fishing boat and went into large scale fishing, acquiring fishing trawlers. From fishing, the company expanded into other business sectors such brewing, construction, petroleum distribution and bulk storage, Bulk liquid products, warehousing and importation. Ibru's first son, Oskar, took the helm of the organization in the 1980s and has been responsible for steering the wheel since then.


METL Group

Year Founded: 1960

Founder: Gulam Dewji

Country: Tanzania

Mohammed Enterprise Limited (METL) is one of the largest industrial conglomerates in East Africa. Gulam Dewji founded the conglomerate decades ago as a commodities trading concern until his eldest son, Mohammed 'Mo' Dewji, returned from attending Georgetown University and a stint in a job on Wall Street in the U.S and joined the business. Mo began acquiring government-owned textile and soap manufacturing entities that were being offered for sale in a privatization exercise. METL's turnover now exceeds $1 billion, mainly driven by its textile and soap manufacturing units, but the younger Dewji has also expanded the company's interests to include financial services, retail and petroleum marketing. Mo's younger brother Hussein Dewji acts as the group's Director of Marketing while Gulam Dewji still serves as chairman.


Bakhresa Group

Year Founded: 1963

Founder: Said Salim Bakhresa

Country: Tanzania

Said Salim Bakhresa, 65, laid the early foundations of the Bakhresa group as a teenager when he began selling potato mix after dropping out of school. He subsequently opened up a series of small business operations including a small restaurant and an ice cream manufacturing operation and reinvested his profits in setting up a grain milling operation. Today, Bakhresa group is Tanzania's dominant food manufacturing company. The company's interests include grain milling, confectionaries, frozen foods, beverages and packaging. Bakhresa's two sons, Mohammed and Abubakar, are both Executive Directors of the company and independently manage arms of the business outside Tanzania.


Bidco Oil Refineries

Year Founded: 1970

Founder: Bhimji Depar Shah

Country: Kenya

Bidco Oil Refineries manufactures edible oils, baking powders, canola and detergents. The company was founded in 1970 by Bhimji Depar Shah as a garment manufacturing outfit, before he and his sons shifted their focus to edible oils. Bidco has a 49% share of the edible oils market in Kenya. Bhimji's eldest son Vimal Shah currently serves as the CEO of the $500 million (revenues) company.


Madhvani Group

Year Founded: 1918

Founder: Muljibhai Madhvani

Country: Uganda

In 1918, Muljibhai Madhvani acquired a piece of land in Kakira, a small commercial town in Eastern Uganda, with which he established a sugar factory. That sugar factory, Kakira Sugarworks, is today the largest producer of sugar in the East African region, producing an estimated 165,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually and employing over 8,000 people. It is also the flagship company of the Madhavani Group, a large Ugandan conglomerate that owns numerous hotels, tea estates, construction, insurance and distribution companies. It also owns and operates the Kakira Airport. Muljibhai Madhvani's youngest son, Mayur Madhvani, currently holds the reins as CEO of the group, a position he assumed after his elder brothers passed away. Mayur has played a crucial role in revitalizing the group, and is responsible for diversifying Madhvani's interests from manufacturing to service-related industries. His younger daughter is being groomed to take over.


Ramco Group

Year Founded: Early 1940s

Founder: Rambhai Patel

Country: Kenya

Kenya's Ramco Group was founded by Rambhai Patel, an Indian immigrant who settled in Nairobi in the early 1940s and founded a hardware store in the city's downtown district. His 3 sons, Kirit, Mahendra and Chandrakant, joined the family business after completing their studies and helped expand the Ramco's holdings into print, stainless steel, IT & office supplies. Ramco now has operations in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda and employs over 2,000 people with an annual turnover in excess of US$220 million. Kirit currently serves as Chairman, while his other brothers serve on the company's board.


The Kenyatta Family Business

Year Founded: Late 1960s

Founder: Mzee Jomo Kenyatta

Country: Kenya

Muhoho Kenyatta, the youngest son of Kenya's first President Jomo Kenyatta, runs the ship of a business empire spanning extensive land holdings in Kenya, a string of hotels, Kenya's largest dairy company, a media outfit and a stake in large commercial bank. President Jomo Kenyatta laid the foundation for the family business back in the 1960s and 1970s when he acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of land across the country when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices. Jomo's children, particularly Uhuru and his family, also own Brookside Dairies, Kenya's largest dairy company, as well as stakes in popular television station K24 and a commercial bank in Nairobi, among other interests.
 
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of the ICF Newsletter is to compile and share relevant information for its users regarding the investment climate in Africa. The focus of this information will predominantly be on the latest reforms in customs, taxations, commercial justice, business registration and licensing, land registration and relevant events relating to the ICF’s mission.
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10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

The Mayor of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba, has commended ICF support in making it easier for the private sector and members of the public to obtain construction permits in the City of Kigali. Read More »
10 March 2014

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10 March 2014

Family businesses control a significant portion of Africa’s economy. While family businesses are quite common across the continent, only a handful of them enjoy longevity. The survival rate of most African family businesses beyond the founder’s generation is extremely low. For example, the late Nigerian business mogul Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, who at one point was believed to be one of the wealthiest men in Africa, successfully built one of Nigeria’s biggest business empires consisting of an airline, a chain of newspapers, extensive real estate, fisheries and retail. After his death in 1998, his businesses crumbled. None of them exist today. Read More »
10 February 2014

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07 February 2014

Watch this short video to see exactly how ICF is transforming the investment climate across Africa in a meaningful way. It showcases a variety of successful projects that are making a positive impact for business in Africa. Read More »
07 February 2014

Taxpayers in Senegal can now enjoy a fully automated experience. The Modernization of Tax Administration project, co-funded by the Government of Senegal and the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), addressed challenges faced by business owners and tax payers in the country. Read More »
07 February 2014

2014 brings with it new challenges and opportunities for business owners, all of which need to be incorporated into a business’s plans going forward. This is according to Gerrie van Biljon, executive director of Business Partners Limited, who says business owners should make use of the first few weeks of the New Year to reflect on what worked well in 2013 and what needs to be improved or changed for the year ahead. Read More »
07 February 2014

WHEN Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta laid the foundation stone for the country’s biggest post-independence infrastructure project late last year — a high-speed railway line from the port at Mombasa to Nairobi — he said the scheme would define his political legacy. Read More »
07 February 2014

Libreville — Burkina Faso, benefitting from the close support of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank, has successfully become a member of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Read More »
07 February 2014

Jean-Claude Béga, the Chief Financial Officer of Mauritius’ largest conglomerate, GML, spoke to AfricaMoney on how the arbitrage between existing operations and new opportunities sets apart a great company from a good one. Read More »
07 February 2014

IBM (IBM.N) began rolling out its Watson supercomputer system across Africa on Thursday, saying it would help to address continental development obstacles as diverse as medical diagnoses, economic data collection and e-commerce research. Read More »
07 February 2014

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07 February 2014

Japan has promised financial assistance to resource-rich African nations totalling $32 billion (R357bn) for investment in infrastructure and mineral resource development, along with education, health care and human resource development, in its bid to cement relations with the continent. Read More »
07 February 2014

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07 February 2014

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07 February 2014

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07 January 2014

Nigeria will overtake South Africa as Africa's largest economy in the next two years, experts predict. But concern is also rising that by not doing “enough” business in Africa, the country is missing an opportunity to benefit from the continent's economic resurgence. Read More »
07 January 2014

Rwanda, Jan 7: Revolutionary reforms which have made it easier for small and medium-scaled businesses (SMBs) to get credit, pay tax and deal with construction have militated favourably in Rwanda’s second place on the latest World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ (DB) report. Read More »
06 January 2014

(CNN) -- A Chinese-funded railway project in Kenya could transform transport in east Africa, and strengthen cross-border political and economic ties. Read More »
06 January 2014

BBCR4TODAY @ BBC RADIO 4 TODAY Read More »
06 January 2014

In 2001 the world began talking about the Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - as potential powerhouses of the world economy. The term was coined by economist Jim O'Neill, who has now identified the "Mint" countries - Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey - as emerging economic giants. Read More »
04 January 2014

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde tells Berna Namata about the EAC partner states’ economic prospects this year and other cross-cutting issues affecting the region ahead of her visit to Kenya on January 6. Read More »
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