As a modern hard-working executive, how do you juggle your multiple roles as a business woman, a wife, a mother, and a world traveler?
I am incredibly fortunate that I have an immensely rewarding career, a wonderful family and a support structure that allows me to balance all of my roles. But it still takes a fine sense of balance. Fortunately, I have had plenty of practice over the years concerning my various roles. As much as possible, I try to keep my work life and my personal obligations separate while devoting time to each part. And in between, I also try to find time for me whether at work, on the road or at home. I make time for my passions, my friends and my community. It is not easy because I have young children; but it is important that my daughters see me work hard and play hard and have a fulfilling life, because I want them to know that women can really have it all if they decide to. It has been wonderful having the opportunity to travel the world as part of my professional duties, to meet interesting people from all walks of life and share my perspectives as an African, a Nigerian and as a northern woman.
Recognising that you are a role model to many women in Nigeria, what steps have you and the Aliko Dangote Foundation taken to empower more women in the society?
Empowering women is a focal point of the Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), where I am one of the Trustees of the Board. Most of our programming supports women, whether in health, education or economic empowerment, which are our areas of focus. Women make up half of the world and half of Nigeria! We will not reach our potential as a people if we do not allow girls to reach their potential. Fewer girls than boys go to school, which then leads to fewer economic opportunities for them as they mature into women. We need each and every one of our fellow citizens to have access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities in order for them to contribute to the development of our country and our continent.
One of our flagship programmes at ADF is empowering hundreds of thousands of women in both rural and urban areas in the country through micro-grants. Under this programme, over N10 billion has been allocated to provide a N10,000 one-off grant to at least 1,000 vulnerable women in each of the 774 Local Government Areas across Nigeria. This programme, launched in Kano in 2011, is systematically being rolled out across the country, with over N3.34 billion in micro-grants distributed in nine states to support women and hopefully increase their ability to support themselves financially. My father, who is the Chairman of ADF, always says that if you empower a woman, you empower a nation. ADF’s health programming which is delivered in collaboration with multiple states in Nigeria is also empowering women, given our focus on primary healthcare especially routine immunisation for women and children.
As a Master’s Degree holder in Business Administration and someone who is well exposed, and with so much influence, have you ever considered going into politics, to apply your business skills to the development and growth of the economy?
I am deeply committed to the development of Nigeria and Africa. This is where my heart lies and this is where I hope my children will have a future so I will do everything I can as a mother, a citizen and a business woman to build a better and stronger Nigeria and Africa. This doesn’t have to be done in the political arena. I believe that I can have the greatest impact in my role as an Executive at the Dangote Group, in my work at ADF and as an engaged and empowered citizen.
What advice would you give to the numerous young women who look up to you and the successes your company has achieved?
I thank God for the privilege he has given me by placing me where I am today, in a family which has been fortunate and successful in business, and with a name which has become a global brand. My advice for young women would be to acquire the right education and skills for self-empowerment. Especially with millennials, the world is our oyster. Our imaginations should not be limited by geography or circumstance. The internet has made access to consumers and markets so easy, so we need to think big, think outside the box and think global. However, it does take a lot of hard work, which anyone willing to succeed needs to put in. Even in my position, I work twice as hard and twice as smart as I probably need to. But I recognise that the world is constantly changing, so we must continue to innovate, push boundaries and be agile.
Can you give us a brief overview of the Dangote Group?
Dangote Industries is one of Africa’s biggest business conglomerates, with vast investments in cement, oil refining, fertiliser, sugar, flour, salt, real estate, automobile assembly, mining etc. and operations in more than 14 African countries. We employ over 50,000 people across the continent and generate more than $4billion in revenues per year. Our success is attributable to the untiring efforts of my father Aliko Dangote and the invaluable hard working staff within the entire group. We also have to recognise our estimable customers and consumers; the business could not be what it is now without their support. Our flagship project is a 650,000bpd crude oil refinery, which is the largest single-train refinery in the world. We also have other major projects including our fertiliser & petrochemicals complex, which upon completion will curb importation of refined products into Nigeria and ensure adequate supply of fertiliser in Nigeria. Our operations are based on innovation and utilise state of the art technology; our products are top of the range with widespread appeal and patronage, and our investment models help to promote African trade and regional integration. The group is also helping to lift thousands of Nigerians and Africans out of poverty through innovative programmes carried out by our corporate organisation (DIL) and our subsidiaries (Business Units). The organisation grew from a vision by my father, who is the President/CE, to become the economic and industrial giant that it is today.
Although the Dangote Group has been a success story, as a Group Executive Director and member of the Board, what are those challenges the group has been confronted with and how have they been managed?
You are right, there is no business without challenges, some of which are beyond our direct control like adequate infrastructure and power supply. However, the business prides itself on having arguably one of the best workforce in Africa, with staff at all levels who work tirelessly and creatively to overcome any existing or projected future challenge utilising all of the local and global resources at our disposal. At Dangote, we are solution providers, because we employ the best hands for our various operations.
Who is Halima Dangote?
Halima is a Muslim northern woman, trained by her parents to be averse to stereotypes, assumptions and social limitations. To question things and not just settle for the status quo.
Like my father always says, I live my life always thinking of my legacy and following the footsteps of exemplary women such as Khadija bint Khuwaylid, who was the first woman to accept Islam and wife of the prophet; Halima Assadiya, who nursed him and was his caregiver; Nusayba bint Ka‘b (companion of the prophet and fought in battles with him), and Rufaidah Al-aslami (Nurse, daughter of S a’ad). These women were all very religious, ambitious and successful in a male dominated era.
I am a loving mother to three beautiful daughters, a wife, a sister, a daughter and friend. I am also a citizen of the world, committed to doing my part to make our world a better place for future generations.
On a lighter note, what are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
Yoga and good food!