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Friday, March 1, 2024

Old money: Dangote’s grandfather, Alhassan Dantata, West Africa’s Richest Man in 1950s

Who is Alhassan Dantata?  

Biography

Alhassan Dantata, a prominent importer and exporter of cash products into Nigeria and other West African countries became the richest man in West Africa in 1950. Dantata, born in 1877 was the son of Abdullahi and his wife Amarya who were both from wealthy Agalawa homes; a hereditary group of long-distance traders in the Hausa empire.  

Alhassan’s father died in 1855. Alhassan and his siblings still young at the time of their father’s death received wealth according to Islamic law. His mother Amarya, a trader of wealth decided to leave Bebeji for Ghana where she had a commercial interest. While leaving Bebeji, Amarya left her children in the care of an old slave woman named Tata. 

Due to Tata’s position as his second “mother”, the young Alhassan became known as Alhassan Dantata. In Hausa, Dan-tata translates to “son of Tata”. His name suggested she had a strong influence on him when he was younger. 

How Dantata Made His Money 

Following the Kano civil war and slavery in 1894, Dantata journeyed through a Gonja-bound caravan to see his mother in the hopes that his wealthy mother, would allow him to live with her and find him a job in the Gold Coast Agalawa community.   

However, this did not happen; she instead took him to a mallam and asked Dantata to stay there till he was ready to return to Bebeji. This didn’t stop him from progressing, as he worked harder and saved as much as he could while staying at the mallam’s house to establish a business. 

Dantata followed in his mother’s footsteps and began selling kola as he grew older. He eventually relocated to Kumasi, Ghana, then known as the Gold Coast; where he established a thriving commercial empire by 1992, along with the Hausa kola nut trade. He began shipping kola nuts by sea from Ghana to Nigeria. 

His thriving business enterprise was known for employing young Nigerians, including Europeans who dominated the local import and export industry. 

He returned to Kano during the groundnut boom and began buying from local farmers to sell to other intermediaries. Alhassan Dandata eventually became the Royal Niger Company’s principal groundnut supplier by 1917. He progressively expanded his groundnut and kola nut-based commercial empire. His contribution to the purchase of kola nuts from Nigerian forest regions for sale in the North and other parts of West Africa was so great at the time that an entire kola train from the Western Region was filled with his nuts only.

He was named director of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, NRC, due to his commercial ability. He was also a member of the Council of the Emir of Kano. 

Some of his children and grandchildren are also great businessmen; including present-day West Africa’s wealthiest man Aliko Dangote, his grandson. 

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