We are all used to the faces of the Nigerian super richest on the famous Forbes list, the likes of Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga and Abdulsamad Rabiu, etc. Here is our own list of the top 3 East African billionaires most people may not know. Mohammed Dewji: estimated net worth of US $1.5 billion Mohammed “Mo” Gulamabbas Dewji (born 8 May 1975) is a Tanzanian businessman and former politician. He is the owner of MeTL Group, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. Dewji served as Member of the Tanzanian Parliament for Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) from 2005 to 2015 for his home town of Singida. As of October 2018, Dewji has an estimated net worth of US $1.5 billion, therefore positioning him as the 17th richest person in Africa, First in East Africa and the continent’s youngest billionaire. Dewji is also the first Tanzanian to cover Forbes Magazine in 2013
Early life and education Dewji was born on 8 May 1975 in Ipembe, Singida. He is the second of six children of Gulamabbas Dewji and Zubeda Dewji. They are Twelver Shias whose ancestors left Gujarat, India in the late 1800s to become traders in East Africa. When Dewji was born, the family was still of modest means; Dewji was born with the help of a neighbouring midwife in a house built from sand and mud. Dewji attested that he almost died at birth due to having the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, a condition known as nuchal cord. By the time Dewji started school, his father had built a family shop into a thriving importexport company. Dewji received his primary education in Arusha at the Arusha Primary School and continued his secondary education at the International School of Tanganyika (IST) in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. In 1992 his father enrolled him at the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy in Orlando, Florida, where Dewji also attended Trinity Preparatory School for 11th Grade. Dewji then moved for his last and final year of high school to the Saddle Brook High School in New Jersey. Dewji attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. graduating in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in international business and finance and a minor in theology.
Business Upon graduation from university, Dewji returned home and assumed the management of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), a commodities trading business founded by his father. After two years of working with the company, he became Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at MeTL. In the early 2000s, when the Tanzanian government privatized loss-making companies, he acquired them inexpensively and turned them into profit centers by trimming personnel expenses. MeTL Group of Companies is the largest privately owned conglomerate in Tanzania. Dewji is responsible for increasing MeTL’s revenues from $30 million to over $1.5 billion between 1999 and 2018. MeTL Group has investments in manufacturing, agriculture, trading, finance, mobile telephony, insurance, real estate, transport and logistics, and food and beverages. The group conducts business in 11 countries and employs over 28,000 people with the aim to target over 100,000 people by 2021. MeTL’s operations contribute ~3.5% of Tanzania’s GDP.
Politics In 2000, Tanzania hosted its second multiparty elections where Dewji, at the age of 25 competed to become the Member of Parliament (MP) for Singida Urban. Despite winning the preliminary votes for the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) with an overwhelming majority, Dewji was deemed too young to hold the parliamentary seat. Tanzania held its third multi-party elections in October 2005 and Dewji stood for the parliamentary seat again and was chosen by CCM to stand as a candidate for Singida Urban. In the general election, he won with 90% of the votes and was sworn in as an MP for Singida Urban constituency on 29 December 2005. Dewji served for ten years before resigning from politics in October 2015. Philanthropy Mohammed Dewji is known for his commitment to the advancement of Tanzania most notably in Singida where he improved the number of people with access to clean water from 23% to 75% during his tenure as MP. Dewji established the Mo Dewji Foundation in 2014, with the goal of alleviating Tanzanian citizens from poverty and hardship. The focus of his charitable activities covers education, health and community development projects across Tanzania. Dewji has spent more than US$3 million on projects that have directly improved the lives of Tanzanians. Dewji joined the Giving Pledge, an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy either during their lifetime or in their will. Dewji is the first Tanzanian and one of the three Africans that have made the pledge in this group of 150+ billionaires, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Strive Masiyiwa and Patrice Motsepe.