Mohammed Dewji: Africa’s youngest billionaire

Mohammed “Mo” Gulamabbas Dewji, Africa’s youngest billionaire is a perfect example of Tanzania’s consistently growing economy and match towards prosperity. This is because his conglomerate alone which is called  Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL) Group has over  150 product lines and has been estimated to be generating revenues of about $3 billion. 

In such a country that has a GDP of about seventy billion dollars, the revenues from his numerous businesses are considered enormous in comparison. MeTL has stakes in practically every productive sector of the economy, including trading, agriculture, manufacturing, packaging, milling, logistics, mobile communications, IT, financial services, and real estate. It employs around thirty-seven thousand people throughout Tanzania and has economic interests as far as neighboring East and Central African countries.

The group offers the nation’s largest network of stores and distribution sites for practically almost everything.

This article details the billionaire’s early life to all his accomplishments in adulthood.

Early age 

Mohammed, better known as Mo Dewji, is frequently likened to prominent African businesses because he exemplifies their passion, assurance, and desire. He is seen by the majority of Tanzanians as a local who rose to prominence despite his wealth and Asian origin.

Before he was born, his family and ancestors already had that business acumen and a knack for being successful in trading, because this is evident with his ancestors who were successful in their business. For example,  his external grandmother managed a tiny duka (store) out of her home, dividing big volumes into smaller pieces and selling them at retail prices that the majority of people could afford, along with other elections of whatever was needed, such as soap, matches, and paraffin oil.

Gulamabbas Dewji, his father, took over the mother’s business and increased its operations by importing and exporting an expanded range of goods, such as wheat, sugar, and soft goods such as soap and toothpaste. He also expanded to exporting agricultural products such as cashews, wheat, and corn

Along with establishing a successful distribution network, the senior Dewji founded the conglomerate,  MeTL in the 1970s, after the country’s financial situation began to improve at the time. The group, which was worth roughly thirty million at the beginning of the century, had become one of the country’s largest trading business

However, the company was still essentially a family affair, and Mo recalls that when he was eleven years old, his father began mentoring him about business and how the industry works. He even took him on long business trips abroad to mentor him about the wider world of trade.

Education and profession 

Mo was sent to the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy in Orlando, Florida because he loves golf and wanted to perfect his talents and maybe become a professional.

After a while, he began to rethink his ambition of becoming a pro golfer and later went to standard Florida high school. From there he went to  Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where he studied theology, international business, and finance. He decided to stay back in New York and got a job as a broker in one of the firms on Wall Street, but managed to live within his means after paying exorbitant rent and taxes while enjoying the high life in New York.

In an interview with the editor-in-chief of Billionaires. In Africa, he claimed that he asked his father for financial help. The answer was an emphatic no. “In Tanzania, there are billions to be made and a family business to run, while he was racing after pennies in New York and aiding Americans in building their economy”, his father sternly reminded him.

Mo Dewji’s decision to return home was heavily influenced and supported by his father, who considered it as well, rather than forging a new life in the West as many of his and previous generations had done. This is significant because it is among Africans who have achieved great success in school or employment in the West, and end up foregoing the comfort and opportunities for personal growth abroad and bringing their expertise, new skills, and knowledge back home.

Like many Africans of his generation, he was perplexed as to why the continent’s desperately needed industrial revolution, which had been a cornerstone of numerous government programs, was taking so long to come. Why was there so little added value, and why are so many consumer items still imported? How can Africa advance if it does not embrace industrialization for both domestic and international trade?

His father argued that it was not yet time to leave their trade comfort zone, but Mo was certain that industrialization was the best course of action and devised plans for an edible oils factory as a starting point.

Business and opportunities 

His chance came in early 2000 when the government chose to privatize some loss-making state-owned firms created during the country’s socialist past. These enterprises had been pushed down to bankruptcy due to government inefficiencies, and they were willing to sell them at bargain prices, he recalled.

He made considerable investments in new equipment and vertically integrated management systems. The transformation has been described as “miraculous.” Between 1999 and 2022, his leadership, administration, and vision grew MeTL’s value from $30 million to about $2 billion.

He has also been constructing factories all over East and Central Africa and plans to increase the plants’ current 1 billion bottle capacity to 3.5 billion bottles over the next 24 to 36 months.

Philanthropy 

He became a member of the Giving Pledge in 2016, a group of philanthropists who pledge to leave the bulk of their money to charity organizations either during their lifetimes or in their wills. Melinda French Gates, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet were the founders. Precious Motsepe, Mo Ibrahim, and Tsitsi Masiyiwa are a few other Africans who have pledged money. Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa are another.

Dewji has a tremendous affinity for community service, which permeated most of his endeavors even before the awful tragedy. The kidnapping certainly caused him to consider the frailty of life and reconsider his goals.

Mo Dewji’s Venture into Politics 

Dewji entered politics in 2000, and his victory in the House of Representatives for his Singida home seat in 2005 was not unexpected.

Residents recall his building schools, drilling wells, improving farmers’ access to water, granting scholarships, rebuilding mosques and churches, installing street lights, and supplying food during droughts.

He resigned in 2015, citing he did not have enough time to fulfill his commitments as an MP owing to the demands of his business and the associated foreign travel. To continue his charity work, he launched the Mo Dewji Foundation in 2014.

Mo Dewji is kidnapped 

Before one tragic day in 2018, everything seemed to change for Mo Dewji when he was kidnapped from a gym he visited and imprisoned in a secret location for 10 days by as-yet-unidentified men. He was a well-known character in Dar es Salaam, transforming people’s lives and appearing on the pages of magazines such as African Business and Forbes, among others.

Using the hashtag #bringbackMo, millions of people prayed in unison for Mo’s release while he was still in prison. He claims they stood up for him and prayed for him among the poorest of the poor. Amazingly, it was. The sensation was fantastic.

He claims that he had plenty of time while he was a prisoner to think back on his life and reconcile the situation he was in. He expressed his gratitude to God for giving him a second opportunity in life and noted that his priorities had changed. He no longer had the desire to work more for the greater benefit of society and to give back; instead, he had the desire to become more personally affluent.

Conclusion 

Given his leadership talents, passion, and desire, Mo Dewji, 47, is still in his prime and has a long way to go on a road that will help guide his nation toward its objective of industrialization. 

Although he may have inherited a substantial fortune and a successful business from his father, there is no disputing that he was shrewd and wise in going forward and taking advantage of the opportunities that were offered to him.

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Paul Umukoro

Paul Umukoro

Paul Umukoro is an astute content writer with makemoney.ng. He writes mostly on hot, contested, and valuable topics in business, finance, and technology. He majored in computer science.

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