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BUSINESS EXCHANGE: Nigeria is Home to Africa's Largest Economy

William Reed | 5/7/2014, 3 p.m.
William Reed

More African-Americans should learn about Nigeria. It’s Africa's most populous nation, as well as the continent’s largest economy. The giant of Africa has an economy of about $509 billion. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a constitutional republic comprised of 36 states. Nigeria is the world’s 26th largest economy. The country is the world's eighth-largest oil exporter, and almost 90 percent of its export earnings are tied to oil. It has the seventh-highest population in the world – 170 million people – but, most of the wealth is confined to a small urban middle class. By 2020, Nigeria is expected to become one of the world's top 20 economies. For decades, the quickest route to wealth was to have political power. Nigeria ranks as the fifth most corrupt country in Africa.

Most Blacks in the Americas have direct lineage to Nigeria and are encouraged to invest there. While the 54-year-old country is facing: depletion of the oil resources and degeneration of its land, Nigeria is an emerging market, with expanding financial, service, communications, technology and entertainment sectors. Nigeria’s manufacturing sector is the third-largest on the continent, and produces a large portion of goods and services for the West African region. Rapidly-growing sectors are telecommunications, banking, and its film industry.

Forbes magazine reports that 12 out of Africa’s 50 billionaires are Nigerians. Nigeria’s millionaires increased by 44 percent between 2007 and 2013 – but much of the country is poor. In the commercial capital, Lagos, a gleaming new Porsche dealership is a long stone's throw from creeks jammed with tumbled-down shacks.

For reference toward becoming familiar with Nigeria and its opportunities here are 10 ultra-wealthy entrepreneurs and business leaders, each worth at least $50 million.

Kola Aluko is in energy and aviation. He founded the oil trading firm Fossil Resources in 2001, then went on to become CEO of Exoro Energy. In 2007, the company merged with Seven Energy.  Aluko is now deputy CEO of Seven Energy. In 2012, Aluko reportedly purchased two luxury estates in Beverly Hills for $40 million.

Eddy Martins Egwuenu is a banker and the second largest individual shareholder of the Zenith Bank Group. His 1.5 percent stake in Zenith Bank is worth about $60 million.

Jide Omokore is the chairman and founder of Energy Resources Group (ERG) which has interests in oil trading and exploration, haulage services, steel, dredging engineering and property development. ERG’s annual revenue exceeds $400 million.

ABC Orjiakor is a trained orthopedic and trauma surgeon. Orjiakor is the chairman and CEO of Shebah E&P Company Limited, an oil exploration firm which has a 40 percent stake in the offshore block OML 108 which produces over 8,000 barrels per day.

Sam Iwuajoku made his fortune importing rice and steel rods. Among other ventures, he reinvested in private aviation services. His aviation companies include one of the few fixed-base operators in the country, a large maintenance hangar at the Lagos airport and a jet charter service.

Gbenga Oyebode is a commercial lawyer. Oyebode is a founder and managing partner of a successful corporate and commercial law firm. He owns a minority share in MTN Nigeria and sits on the company’s board. Oyebode also serves as chairman of Access Bank PLC, Okomu Oil and Crusade Insurance.

Arthur Eze is an oil man who sits atop Atlas Oranto Petroleum, a West African exploration company that owns several producing and non-producing oil and gas assets across Nigeria, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea and Gambia.

Aderemi Makanjuola is the founder and executive chairman of a company that provides marine, aviation and logistics support services to oil exploration and production firms.

Sixty-two year-old Dele Fajemirokun’s inherited Nigerian Maritime Services Limited one of the country’s largest shipping companies from his father, Henry Fajemirokun, a renowned shipping magnate.

Michael Ade-Ojo is the biggest seller of Toyota vehicles in West Africa. His Elizade Group accounts for over 10 percent of all Toyota sales in Nigeria. He is also chairman of Toyota Nigeria and a key shareholder of a distributor of Toyota cars.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via the BaileyGroup.org.