Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|December 9, 2020|7 Minutes|In Billionaire Watch

Billionaire Watch

Billionaire Watch - Pouring Millions Into Football – Making Millions By Pouring Cement

South African mining billionaire and philanthropist Patrice Motsepe – who made his fortune turning around distressed gold mining assets – often joked that his football club was his biggest charitable cause.

“We went into football not to make money not to make money but to give back. Of course, we never thought we were going to lose so much money!” said the billionaire.

Quite so, for he has poured millions down the years into Mamelodi Sundowns – the premier league team, that won the African champions league in 2016, is known as the Brazilians or the billionaire team. A lot of money for an entrepreneur worth as estimated $2,5 billion -lauded by Forbes magazine at its centenary in New York, in 2017, as one of the world’s top 100 business brains.

Motsepe, according to those who knew him, was a tidy midfielder in his day who has a deep love of the game. Yet many may also be surprised that Motsepe is throwing his hat into the African football political ring. In March 2021, the general assembly of the Confederation of African Football will appoint the new president of the federation when the initial four-year term of incumbent Ahmad Ahmad – the former high school teacher and football coach from Madagascar – comes to an end.

The South African Football Association is supporting the bid calling Motsepe a “revolutionary choice” because of his international experience and love of the grass roots game in Africa. Safa is supported by the football associations of Sierra Leone, Botswana and Nigeria.

Motsepe has managed to navigate the South African political scene largely by keeping his distance. It will be interesting to see how he navigates the conflict-ridden politics of CAF. Let’s hope it is not going to be an own goal for the billionaire.

Speaking of continental matters, the African Continental Free Trade Area is almost upon us and it was good to see a billionaire in East Africa attempting to boost intra-African trade that lags behind the rest of the world. Intra- African is a mere 17% way behind 69% in Europe and 59% in Asia with many nations choosing the old colonial route of importing from Europe.

At the very least Kenyan billionaire Narendra Raval, the chairman of Devki group of companies, is trying to change this in a small way by exporting cement to neighbouring Rwanda to ease a shortage. Raval believes he will soon be exporting more than a million tonnes to Rwanda because of the strong growth in the country.

The cement will be exported from Raval’s new Nakuru plant about 500 km from the Rwandan border. In the last 18 months Raval, who also owns a cement plant in Uganda, has invested $350 million as part of his plan to make east Africa self- sufficient in cement that’ll save the region a fortune in foreign currency and imports. It will also save time; it takes a week to move cement from Nairobi to Rwanda, the trip from Nakuru will be a lot faster.

Raval also plans to invest $45 million into making cement in Rwanda in a move that he hopes will bring down prices.

“Rwanda is a growing and developing country. I have seen the government agenda to build a lot of roads, bridges and housing in the country,” says Raval.

The AfCFTA is likely to ease this cement business and bring down prices. The trading bloc will be led by South Africa lawyer, Wamkele Mene, a spring chicken of a Secretary General in his early 40s, who believes the AfCFTA will make history by bring together 1.3 billion people in 55 countries with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion. It promises to bring down tariffs across the continent and increase African exports by $560 billion and attract new investment.

Raval is a man who has staked his life on the continent. He arrived in Nairobi, from India, in 1978 at the age of 16 to work as a priest. Four years later his father instructed Raval to get married to set an example to his two younger brothers; he married Neeta – a medical doctor – in 1982, left the temple and built a business empire based on steel and cement.

And finally, a bit of sad news for one of the tarnished billionaires of Africa Isabel dos Santos. Her husband Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art collector died in a diving accident in Dubai, on October 29 the family said.

Dokolo married dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos who ruled Angola for 38 years until 2017, in 2002. The couple faced corruption charges, including allegations that they steered $1 billion in state funds to companies in which they held stakes during her father’s presidency. Both denied wrongdoing. Dos Santos was listed as the 13th richest billionaire in Africa by Forbes magazine, in 2020, with an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion.