(CNBC) – Africa has gotten a bad rap for corruption, but there is, in fact, a lot of investment opportunity on the continent, Africa’s richest man told CNBC’s “Power Lunch” Tuesday.
“Almost every single country is looking at Africa, because things are happening,” said Aliko Dangote, chairman and CEO of Dangote Group. “The return on investment is averaging at about 30 percent and that’s why people are really making quite a lot of money.”
General Electric, for example, has invested more in the first quarter of 2014 that it did in all of 2011, he pointed out.
With a growing population, infrastructure is one area ripe with opportunity. Mining is another, he said.
Although he admitted corruption is an issue, Dangote said an even greater obstacle is a lack of understanding about that corruption and the overall business environment.
“Almost every single country in the world has corruption. The only thing is for us to have strong institutions that will deal with that,” he said.
“I think the majority of our governments, they have actually tried in times of trying to stop corruption, and I think doing that on a continuous basis will end up eliminating corruption entirely.”
The billionaire entrepreneur ranked number 23 on CNBC’s list of top 25 most influential business leaders over the past quarter century. Bloomberg estimates his fortune to be $24.5 billion.
Dangote started a small food-trading company in 1977 with a $3,000 loan from an uncle. He’s since gone on to build a soft-commodities import and trading empire in Africa. At the center of the business is Dangote Cement, Africa’s biggest cement producer with a market valuation of $24 billion.
He has also branched out into the petroleum business. With refineries in two African countries only pumping out about 70,000 barrels a day, Dangote saw an opportunity to grow his company while creating more energy self-sufficiency for Africa. He said his refinery business outputs 500,000 barrels a day.
“We’ll actually amass a lot of cash, and the best way for us to help Africa is make sure we make not only Nigeria, also the subcontinent self-sufficient in terms of petroleum products, because almost 95 percent of the petroleum products are imported into the sub-Saharan continent, and we think we cannot continue with that.”