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Africa’s richest land in Nairobi

Some of Africa’s and world’s rich- est Nigerian tycoons are in town. They arrived in style, riding in executive private jets in the largest such galaxy of the super rich from one country to be seen in the capital city, Nairobi. They accompanied Nigerian President Good Luck Jonathan when he landed in Kenya on Thursday this week for his maiden official visit.

On tow was a constellation of Nigeria’s richest billionaires among them Africa’s richest man, Nigeria’s cement tycoon, Aliko Dangote. The over ten men and women who make Nigeria’s list of wealthiest tycoons are looking to cut multi-billion deals with both government and local businessmen.

According to foreign policy experts this move will ostensibly improve Nigeria’s standing in Kenya on the backdrop of a series of incidents which have lately given a bad reputation to citizens of the western African economic powerhouse among locals. On Friday Nigerian aides intimated to The People that President Jonathan’s entourage of top businessmen and government officials was easily the largest single delegation to accompany a Nigerian head of state in any African state in the West African nation’s independent history.

“The President was accompanied by the finest businessmen and women we have in Nigeria, perhaps in Africa,” a Presidential aide who sought anonymity told The People at the Intercontinental Hotel where a bilateral meeting was held yesterday. The entourage included wealthy business magnates, with continental investments in the lucrative Nigerian oil sector as well as other sectors such as manufacturing, banking, agriculture and processing.

The galaxy of the super rich included Aliko Dangote, who this year became the first African entrepreneur to lay claim to a US$20 billion fortune as the stock value of his largest holding Dangote Cement, increased this year making him the richest man in Africa and among the top 25 richest people in the world. Put into context, Dangote is richer than Russia’s richest man, Alisher Usmanov, richer than India’s Lakshmi Mittal and running neck and neck with India’s Mukesh Ambani.

He is catching up with such Americans as Google’s billionaire founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to Forbes magazine. Others are Dr Ernest Nnaemeka Azudialu-Obiejesi, Nigeria’s biggest oil baron and founder and Group Managing Director of Nestoil PLC, Nigeria’s foremost indigenous oil and gas company. He is on the board of several Nigerian A-listed companies including a Nestoil-led consortium which has acquired a 45 per cent stake in the OML 42 from Shell, Total and ENI, containing developed oil fields and gas reserves.

He was recently awarded All Africa Business Leaders Award (AABLA) by Forbes CNBC and ABN for West African Entrepreneur of the Year. Among the billionaires is Felix Idiga, an astute oil baron. Others are Jim Ovia, founder of leading Nigerian Bank, Zenith Bank Group. The bank is West Africa’s second largest financial services provider by market capitalisation and asset base.

He was required to step down as chief executive in 2009 after a 20-year stint following a Nigerian Central Bank directive that limits the tenure of bank chiefs to 10 years. He still remains the largest individual shareholder; his stake is worth about $300 million. An equally large chunk of his wealth comes from a portfolio of prime real estate in Victoria Island and Ikoyi, some of Nigeria’s priciest neighbourhoods.

Ovia devotes the majority of his time to managing Visafone, a telecom outfit he founded in 2007. He also owns Quantum, a private equity fund focused on Africa. The group of tycoons first created a spectacle at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport when they landed on Thursday evening in ex- pensive private jets. They would later be booked in top Nairobi hotels.

Dangote stirred a bilateral meeting comprised of business leaders from both countries and headed by both President Uhuru and Jonathan when he announced he would invest a staggering Sh 34 billion (400 million US dollars) in the country to set up a cement plant. Speaking of behalf of the Nigerian business delegation, Dangote said Nigerian businessmen would explore more opportunities in various sectors in Kenya.

At the meeting, President Uhuru announced drastic measures in support of trade and strengthened bilateral ties between the two countries. The President ordered that Nigerian investors be issued with five to ten year visas to enable them easily conduct business in Kenya. “This will facilitate our people to travel with ease and without restrictions,” said Uhuru.

Together with President Jona- than and Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru called for more intra-African trade. “We have the capacity, ability and know-how to do it,” Uhuru said. Following the meeting, Kenyan businessmen are set to join President Uhuru Kenyatta early next year for a state visit in Nigerian which will see the countries consolidate trade and bilateral relations. - By BRIAN NGUGI

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