13 Family Business Leaders In Africa Who Are Beating The Odds

13 Family Business Leaders In Africa Who Are Beating The Odds

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Family businesses control a significant portion of the economy in developed and developing countries but only a few enjoy longevity. The survival rate of most African family businesses is extremely low beyond the founder’s generation, Forbes reports.

The list below includes some leaders of family businesses in Africa who beat the odds. Their companies grew even huger than their successors. Most of these businesses are worth obscene amounts of money, which makes their leaders’ achievements even more fascinating.

Succession planning is one of the big problems facing family run businesses. It gets very personal.

Forbes cites an African example of the late Nigerian business tycoon, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, once thought to be one of the wealthiest men in Africa. He built one of Nigeria’s largest business empires consisting real estate, an airline, fisheries, a chain of newspapers, and retail. His businesses collapsed after he died in 1998, and none are still around today.

African family businesses face the same challenges as those in other parts of the world when it comes to dealing with family conflicts, formalizing business structures, and managing finances.

One is attracting high-performing talent. Many respondents in a PwC survey of family businesses said that it is particularly difficult for family businesses to attract talented employees with the right qualifications because the brightest prefer working for listed multinationals, where the career path is clearer and where there is the possibility of equity.

CampdenFB, a magazine that covers the growing market of private family businesses, examines current trends, governance and investment best practices, and wealth management of family businesses globally. Formerly known as Families in Business, CampdenFB compiles an annual lists of leading family business leaders.

The list below goes beyond revenue (although that’s included too, where available), examining African family businesses under additional criteria. These include governance, growth and innovation.

This list also takes into consideration diversity and inclusivity.

Companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion perform better, according to TalentIntelligence.

Some of the African business leaders listed below have been recognized for the composition of leadership of their businesses, boards or senior management, or for promoting equality and diversity.

Harvard Business School conducted a study in 2013 of 24 companies that had earned reputations for prioritizing diversity. Paul Block, the CEO of Mersant, summed up one of the key findings in the study this way: “People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you’re not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs.”

Some of the African businesses listed below have more than one leader recognized in the family, whether it’s siblings sharing executive roles or a husband and wife team.

These are some of the top-ranking family business leaders in Africa in 2014 and 2015, based on research by Campden Families In Business magazine.

Sources: HarvardBusinessReviewCampdenFB2014TalentIntelligenceCampdenFB2015, PwCHowWeMadeItInAfrica,

Mayur Madhvani, Africa family business
Mayur Madhvani, left. monitor.co.ug

Mayur Madhvani, Uganda

Company: Madhvani Group
Role: Managing director
Nominated in 2014 for stewardship

The Madhvani family, built one of the most successful enterprises in Uganda, then lost it all in the 1970s when dictator Idi Amin forced all Asian Ugandans out of the country. After Amin was deposed in 1979, the family revived their business. Mayur Madhavi has overseen investment in the company’s sugar division.

The family set up Uganda’s largest private education foundation, named for the business’s founding father, Muljibhai Prabhudas Madhvani, who arrived in Jinja in 1912 at  age 18. He started the trading company that grew to account for 10 percent of Uganda’s gross domestic product.

Sources: CampdenFB, Madhvani Foundation

Oskar Ibru, African family business
Oskar Ibru, Kaine Dosekun and Wanda Ibru. bellanaija.com

Oskar Ibru, Nigeria

Age: 55
Company: Ibru Organisation
Role: Managing director and chief executive
Nominated in 2014 for stewardship

This second-generation leader has helped guide his family’s multi-billion dollar business since the 1980s, and today it is one of the most successful firms in Nigeria. Founded by his father, Michael Ibru, its interests include shipping, agriculture, aviation, banking, oil and gas. Oskar has spoken publicly about the close bond his family has.

The family patriarch was Chief Peter Epete Ibru, a missionary who worked for much of his life in Yorubaland. His wife, Janet Omotogor Ibru, was a trader who died in 2006 age 98. Their son, Michael Ibru, is credited with founding the company.

Sources: CampdenFB, Wiki


Tunde Folawiyo, African family business
Tunde Folawiyo. Africaranking.com

Tunde Folawiyo, Nigeria

Age: 54
Company: Yinka Folawiyo Group
Role: Managing director
Nominated in 2014 for stewardship

Tunde Folawiyo’s family business controls the largest privately owned shipping company in West Africa, and was one of the first to build significant trade with Eastern Europe. Tunde took control in 2008 after his father, Wahab Folawiyo, died.

Wahab was a well known Nigerian Islamic leader and businessman who started the company in 1957 as a commodities trader. Wahab served as chairman until his death. Tunde established several international strategic ventures in banking, petroleum, and energy.

Sources: CampdenFB, Forbes

Tajudeen Aminu Dantata, African family business

Tajudeen Aminu Dantata, Nigeria

Company: Dantata Organization
Role: Chief executive
Revenues: $490.37 million
Nominated in 2014 for stewardship

Third-generation Tajudeen Dantata has a longstanding commitment to his family business. He joined the company in 1988 and became managing director in 1994. The conglomerate started off as a business trading in kola nut, cocoa, and groundnuts. It grew to have interests in oil exploration, manufacturing, finance, imports and exports, farming, merchandising and commodity trading.

Source: CampdenFB

Othman Benjelloun, African family business
Othman Benjelloun, moroccoworldnews.com

Othman Benjelloun, Morocco

Age: 81
Company: FinanceCom
Role: President
Nominated in 2014 for entrepreneurship

Othman Benjelloun inherited an insurance company from his father and transformed it into one of the largest in Morocco. In the process he became the country’s richest man. Later h branched out into banking. He controls his companies via his holding company FinanceCom, with assets exceeding $22.28 billion. His son, Kamal, is expected to succeed him if or when he retires.

Source: CampdenFB

Abubakar Bakhresa, African family business

Abubakar Bakhresa. Flickr.com/Financial Times Live

Abubakar Said Salim Bakhresa, Tanzania

Company: Bakhresa Group
Role: Executive director
Revenues: $489.12 million US
Nominated in 2014 for being one to watch

Abubakar Bakhresa is considered the likely second-generation successor of Bakhresa Group, Tanzania’s largest conglomerate, founded by his father Said Salim Bakhresa. The company’s interests include grain milling, confectionaries, frozen foods, beverages and packaging. Bakhresa oversees the group’s all-important wheat milling and sourcing divisions and is also chairman of the group’s football team, Azam FC.

Source: CampdenFB

Sharon and Jeffrey Wapnick, African family business
Sharon and Jeffrey Wapnick. Photos: jewishbusinessnews.com, sacommercialpropnews.co.za

Jeffrey  and SharonWapnick, South Africa

Age: Jeffrey 53, Sharon 51
Company: Octodec Investments/Premium Properties
Role: Managing director (Jeffrey), Chairwoman (Sharon)
Revenues: Octodec: $46.1 million – Premium: $56.5 million
Nominated in 2015 for stewardship

Sharon and Jeffrey Wapnick are a second-generation brother-and-sister team with all the right credentials. Jeffrey took on the role of managing director in Octodec Investments and Premium Properties in 2011, while Sharon was appointed non-executive chairman. The duo remerged their father’s two companies this year and the newly-formed Octodec is thought to have a real estate portfolio worth $857 million.

Source: CampdenFB

Vimal Shah, African family business
Vimal Shah. agenceecofin.com

Vimal Shah, Kenya

Age: 55
Company: Bidco Oil Refineries
Role: Chief executive
Revenues: $500 million
Nominated in 2014 and 2015 for entrepreneurship

Vimal Shah is credited with turning the small garment manufacturing company founded by his father in the 1980s into the largest manufacturer of cooking oils and soaps in East and Central Africa. Vimal and his brother, Tamal, began importing cottonseed oil from Malaysia with the intention of founding a soap business. Today, Vimal is among the wealthiest people in Africa and a lead investor in Tatu City – a new $3 billion satellite city to be built near Nairobi. Its oil refinery, just outside Nairobi, produces 1,000 liters daily. Shah still has plans to expand further though and wants to become the leading brand across Africa.

Source: CampdenFB

Lamia Tazi, Africa family business
Lamia Tazi. Photo: leseco.ma

Lamia Tazi, Morocco

Age: 37
Company: Sothema
Role: Managing director
Revenues: $110 million (2013)
Nominated in 2015 for being one to watch

This second-generation leader has helped transform her father’s pharmaceutical business into an international player, with laboratories now present in more than 30 countries. Last year revenues were up 9.6 percent. Her mission is to capitalize on Sothema’s partnership with the health ministry – to improve the health sector in Morocco – through commercial relations and scientific training in the region. Sothema was the first Moroccan pharmaceutical laboratory to be listed on the Casablanca stock market.

Source: CampdenFB


Janine Diagou, Ivory Coast

Age: 41
Company: NSIA Group
Role: Deputy director general
Revenues: $236 million (2011)
Nominated in 2015 for entrepreneurship

Deputy director general of the insurance and banking group NSIA Participations and chief executive of NSIA Bank, Diagou is the daughter of NSIA Group president and founder Jean Kacou Diagou. Diagou started working at NSIA Group, a leading insurance group in French-speaking west and central Africa, in 1999 as a director responsible for audit and control management of NSIA Ivory Coast. She is now pushing its banking business and digital innovation strategy.

Source: CampdenFB

Mohammed Dewji, African family business
Mohammed Dewji, metl.net

Mohammed Dewji, Tanzania

Age: 40
Company: METL Group
Role: Chief executive
Revenues: $1.5 billion
Nominated in 2014 for entrepreneurship and in 2015 for stewardship

After second-generation Mohammed Dewji returned from his studies in the U.S., he joined his father’s conglomerate METL Group and transformed it into an industrial powerhouse. He acquired loss-making state assets the Tanzanian government had decided to sell off and developed them into profitable businesses. The world of business wasn’t enough for Dewji. He became a member of parliament for the Singida constituency in central Tanzania. Last year, he launched a new soda to compete with Coca-Cola in Africa. The ambitious project adds to his diversified business interests which range from bicycles to textiles.

Source: CampdenFB

Folorunsho Alakija, African family business
Folorunsho Alakija. ngtrends.com

Folorunsho Alakija, Nigeria

Age: 64
Company: Famfa Limited
Role: Managing director
Nominated in 2015 for diversity

Returning from an education in the U.K., Alakija began her career as a secretary, then went on to found several businesses, most notably oil and gas company Famfa. Famfa is still 60-percent owned by the family. Her four sons work in the business. In 2013, she was appointed vice chairman of the National Heritage Council and Endowment for the Arts and also runs the Rose of Sharon Foundation, which grants scholarships and funds to widows and orphans.

Source: CampdenFB

Gareth Ackerman, African family business
Gareth Ackerman,

Gareth Ackerman, South Africa

Age: 57
Company: Pick ‘n Pay
Role: Chairman
Revenues: (2013): $5.22 billion US
Nominated in 2015 for growth

As chairman of one of Southern Africa’s biggest retail chains, Oxford graduate Gareth Ackerman oversees more than 42,000 employees and 1,117 stores. The second-generation executive increased profit before tax by 34.9 percent in the six months to Aug. 31, 2014. Ackerman gained retail experience as managing director of Blue Ribbon Butcheries before becoming chairman of Pick ‘n Pay in 1992. He also manages the Ackerman family office.

Source: CampdenFB