Forbes’ Top 10 Family Businesses In Africa

Forbes’ Top 10 Family Businesses In Africa


The survival rate of most African family businesses beyond the first generation is extremely low, but here are 10 notable exceptions, courtesy of Forbes.com. Founded by entrepreneurs, they span industries ranging from luxury goods and construction to agriculture, banking and retail.

These are the 10 most successful African family businesses that have been growing for decades. Their founders all passed the baton to succeeding generations.

This list of the top 10 family businesses in Africa was assembled by Forbes.com’s Mfonobong Nsehe. He asked a panel of eight judges from across Africa to help identify African companies with annual revenues of $50 million or more. These companies are led by the second generation-or-subsequent to the founder, and the family controls at least 30 percent of each listed company’s equity and voting rights.

Family businesses are common in Africa, Forbes.com reports, but only a handful have longevity. One example is the late Nigerian business mogul Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. Once considered one of the wealthiest men in Africa, he built one of Nigeria’s biggest business empires consisting of an airline, a chain of newspapers, extensive real estate, fisheries and retail. After his death in 1998, his businesses crumbled. None of them exists today.

Remgro, founded in 1941 by Anton Rupert, South Africa

In 1941, Anton Rupert, an Afrikaner South African businessman, started manufacturing cigarettes from his garage with a 10-pound investment. Rembrandt, the cigarette company he founded, became one of Africa’s largest tobacco firms.

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As Rembrandt grew, Rupert diversified from tobacco manufacturing into industrial and luxury brand goods. In 1988, his son Johann joined Rembrandt, splitting the company in two – Remgro, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed investment company with holdings in banking, healthcare and industry; and Richemont, a Swiss-based luxury goods company.

Johann is chairman of both companies and has been CEO of Richemont since 2010.

Pick ‘n Pay, founded in 1966 by Raymond Ackerman, South Africa

When Raymond Ackerman was fired from a job as managing director at South African food retailer Checkers in 1966, he used his severance pay to buy three retail outlets in Cape Town which traded under the name Pick ‘n Pay.

Raymond built Pick ‘n Pay into one of the most popular and largest retail outlets in South Africa on his reputation as a champion of consumers who fought supplier cartels in bread, gas, cigarettes and other industries.

Pick ‘n Pay now has close to 800 stores in Southern Africa. Raymond stepped down as executive chairman in 2010, and his son Gareth Ackerman took
over as chairman. Gareth is still trying to prove himself, Forbes.com reports.

Pick ‘n Pay is the second-largest supermarket chain in South Africa, losing significant market share in the last few years to rivals Woolworths and ShopRite while struggling to adopt new information technology and distribution systems.

Pick ‘n Pay is listed on the Johannesburg bourse, but remains a family business. The Ackerman Family trust owns 53 percent of stock and Gareth’s siblings occupy senior positions in the company. Suzanne Ackerman-Berman is a company director. Jonathan Ackerman is executive director.

Dantata Organization, founded in 1910 by Alhassan Dantata, Nigeria

The Dantata Organization was founded around 1910 by the patriarch of the Dantata family, Alhassan Dantata, who started trading commodities such as kolanut, cocoa, beads and groundnuts in Lagos and Accra under the company name, Alhassan Dantata & Sons Ltd.

When Alhassan died in 1955, his four sons took over: Mamuda, Sanusi, Ahmadu, and Aminu. Aminu, 82 is still alive. Aminu’s oldest son, Tajudeen Aminu Dantata, runs the family business, taking over in 1988.

The Dantata Organization is a large conglomerate with interests in oil exploration, manufacturing, banking and finance, import and export, farming, merchandising and commodity trading. Companies include Dantata & Sawoe Construction, a leading construction firm; Bebeji Oil & Allied Products Ltd., a petroleum marketing company; Express Petroleum & Gas Co. Ltd., an oil exploration company; Dantata Property Development & Management; and Kundila Finance Co., among others. The group’s annual revenues exceed $300 million annually.

Ibru Organization, founded in 1957 by Olorogun Michael Ibru, Nigeria

Nigerian businessman Olorogun Michael Ibru started selling frozen fish from the back of a truck in 1957. As his business grew, he chartered a fishing boat and went into large-scale fishing, eventually buying fishing trawlers.

From fishing, the company expanded into brewing, construction, petroleum distribution and bulk storage, bulk liquid products, warehousing and importation.

Ibru’s first son, Oskar, took over in the 1980s.

METL Group, founded in 1960 by Gulam Dewji, Tanzania

Mohammed Enterprise Ltd. (METL) is one of the largest industrial conglomerates in East Africa. Gulam Dewji founded the conglomerate as a commodities trading concern. His oldest son, Mohammed “Mo” Dewji, attended Georgetown University in the U.S. and did a stint on Wall Street before joining the family business.

Mo began buying government-owned textile and soap manufacturing entities that were being privatized. METL’s turnover now exceeds $1 billion, mainly from textile and soap

The younger Dewji expanded the company’s interests to include financial services, retail and petroleum marketing. Mo’s younger brother, Hussein Dewji, is director of marketing. Gulam Dewji is chairman.

Bakhresa Group, founded in 1963 by Said Salim Bakhresa, Tanzania

Said Salim Bakhresa, 65, laid the foundation for the Bakhresa group as a teenager selling
potato mix after dropping out of school. He opened up a series of small businesses including a restaurant and ice cream manufacturing operation, reinvesting his profits in a grain milling operation.

Today, Bakhresa group is Tanzania’s dominant food manufacturing company with interests
including grain milling, confectioneries, frozen foods, beverages and packaging.

Bakhresa’s sons, Mohammed and Abubakar, are executive directors of the company and independently manage arms of the business outside Tanzania.

Bidco Oil Refineries, founded in 1970 by Bhimji Depar Shah, Kenya

Bidco Oil Refineries manufactures edible oils, baking powders, canola and detergents. The company was founded in 1970 by Bhimji Depar Shah as a garment manufacturer, before he and his sons shifted their focus to edible oils. Bidco has a 49-percent share of the edible oils market in Kenya. Bhimji’s oldest son, Vimal Shah, is CEO of the $500-million company.

Madhvani Group, founded in 1918 by Muljibhai Madhvani, Uganda

In 1918, Muljibhai Madhvani bought a piece of land in Kakira, a small commercial town in Eastern Uganda, and built a sugar factory. Today, Kakira Sugarworks is the largest sugar producer in the East African region, producing an estimated 165,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually and employing more than 8,000 people. It is also the flagship company of the Madhavani Group, a large Ugandan conglomerate that owns numerous hotels, tea plantations, construction, insurance and distribution companies. It also owns and operates the Kakira Airport.

Muljibhai Madhvani’s youngest son, Mayur Madhvani, became CEO after his older brothers died. Mayur revitalized the group and is credited with diversifying Madhvani’s interests from manufacturing to service-related industries. His younger daughter is being groomed to take over, according to Forbes.com.

Ramco Group, founded in early 1940s by Rambhai Patel, Kenya

Kenya’s Ramco Group was founded by Rambhai Patel, an Indian immigrant who settled in Nairobi in the early 1940s and founded a hardware store in the city’s downtown district. His three sons, Kirit, Mahendra and Chandrakant, joined the family business after completing their studies and helped expand Ramco into print, stainless steel, IT and office supplies.

Ramco now has operations in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, employing more than 2,000 people with an annual turnover exceeding $220 million. Kirit is chairman, and his brothers serve on the company’s board.

The Kenyatta Family Business, founded in late 1960s by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya

Muhoho Kenyatta, youngest son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, heads a business empire spanning extensive land holdings in Kenya, a string of hotels, Kenya’s largest dairy company, a media outfit and a stake in a large commercial bank.

Jomo laid the foundation for the family business in the 1960s and 70s when he bought hundreds of thousands of acres after the British colonial government and World Bank funded a settlement transfer plan allowing government officials and wealthy Kenyans to buy land from the British at very low prices.

Jomo’s children, particularly Uhuru and his family, also own Brookside Dairies, Kenya’s largest dairy company, as well as stakes in popular TV station K24 and a commercial bank in Nairobi, among others.