How Immigrant Turned Himself Into Tanzania’s Richest Man

On his website, Mohammed Dewji wrote, “I have been blessed and I am very proud of the success of my company, MeTL, but with this success and the subsequent wealth comes responsibility. God blesses some people with wealth and it is the duty of these people to redistribute this wealth to less fortunate people and contribute to humanity. I have great pride in being able to say through both MeTL and the Mo Dewji Foundation, we are achieving this. I believe in putting money back into my country first and foremost. Tanzania is where I make my money, it is my home and Tanzanians are my people and therefore my priority.” It speaks volumes about what kind of man Dewji is, yet it still is just a tip of the iceberg.

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Just last week, he donated over 100 million Tanzania shillings to a community based poultry project, Msoga, while only three weeks ago, he handed over a newly built toilet block to Msinune Primary School, in Bagamoyo, Pwani.  Meanwhile Mohammed Dewji is not even a black man. It only turns out he is a Tanzanian citizen who is insanely rich, moreover unbelievably goodhearted and benevolent.

Vijay, the CEO of East Coast Oils and Fats talked of him as a good leader who always keeps the main goal in focus and breaks it down to sub parts for closer inspection. And that he has the capability to explore different leadership models, analyze individuals’ strengths, establish a mutual accountability within the team and create a team environment which is open, fun and allows healthy and productive discussion.

His ability to break a mammoth task into manageable steps, his confidence as a person are traits that have been talked of as which motivate, inspire confidence in others and draw out the trust and best efforts of the team to complete the task well.
And this is the only way to explain how Mohammed Dewji made it as the first Tanzanian and the first African of less than 40 years of age to grace the cover of Forbes Africa with a punching headline of “100 hours a week 85$ Million a year”.

Mohammed Dewji is, in fact, reputed to be the richest man in Tanzania and, according to Forbes; he was 1500th among the world’s billionaires in 2015. Dewji, while talking about his company’s growth in 2015 remarked that, “Who would have thought we could turn our business from $30 Million to $1.1 billion in only 12 years.”

Who Is Mohammed Dewji?

Mohammed Dewji also known as “Mo” was born on May, 08 1975 in Ipembe ward, Singida. He is the second child of Mr and Mrs Gulam Dewji and has five other siblings.

Mo received his primary education in Arusha at the Arusha Primary School and finished his secondary education from the International School of Tanganyika in Dar Es Salam. In 1992 his parents decided to send him to America for his High School years and hewas admitted to the Saddle Brooke High School in New Jersey.

It was at High School that Mo first started exhibiting signs of leadership by becoming the School President. Being a Tanzanian and holding such position in a foreign land made his family very proud. He was also voted as the Most Accomplished student at the time and it is here that his schoolmate, Jennifer Capriati, a very famous U.S tennis player won the same vote in the women’s section.

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After finishing his high school studies Mo continued with his university education in USA and joined one of the renowned university, Georgetown University in Washington D.C majoring in International Business and Finance and taking Theology as a minor subject.

During his time at Georgetown, Mo started to analyze his life. He was trying to balance the Western way of life with his native African way of living. He thought that much more could be done for his countrymen through some very basic changes and way of running things. He started to focus and prioritize what he wanted to gain from his education and experience in America. After Graduation in 1998 Mo headed back to Tanzania and joined the family business. He became Chief Financial Controller at Mohammed Enterprises Tanzanian Limited (METL).

Apart from joining Business, Mo also started expanded his social activities by becoming sponsoring company of The Simba Sports club of Dar es Salaam.

In 2000 Tanzania hosted its second multiparty elections’ stood in those elections for his home constituency Singida as a member of parliament. He won the preliminary votes in CCM (ruling party) with overwhelming majority, but the joy was short lived as he was not nominated to contest for the seat by the party on grounds that he was too young. He was just 25 at that time.

Despite the decision of the party Mo did not lose hope and he did his best to campaign for the candidate chosen by the party and made sure the party’s interest are given priority over his own ambition.

After the elections Mo continued many activities to help the people of Singida’s and also spent his time and investment in various sports ventures. He increased his sponsorship deals with Dar es Salaam outfit Simba Sports Club and spent more than 100 millions Tanzanians shillings per given year on the club.

In 2001 Mo decided to marry his childhood sweetheart Saira whom he knew since his school years at the International School of Tanganyika. Mo and Saira are blessed with two beautiful children Naira and Abbas.

Two years after marriage, Mo finally took full control of his company Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (METL) and became the Managing Director.

During his tenure the company has grown eight folds and diversified in many sectors like Agriculture, Finance, Distribution and Manufacturing.

Statistics shows that companies under METL are contributing an aggregate 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Tanzania and also employing 20,000 people.

Tanzania held its third multi party elections in 2005 and Mo stood for the parliamentary seat again and this time he won a landslide victory in preliminary votes and got chosen by the CCM party to stand as a candidate. In the general election he won and overwhelming majority of 90 percent of the total votes and was sworn in as a member of parliament on the 29th of December 2005 Mohammed Dewji

Mo and sports have gone hand in hand ever since he was a child and he always kept his passion for football alive. When President Kikwete was sworn in 2005 as the fourth phase president of United Republic of Tanzania he brought back the excitement and enthusiasm to Tanzanian football team (Taifa Stars) fans, by ordering a special committee to concentrate and improve the team’s performance.

Mo was appointed as chairman of the committee by Minister of Sports and under his leadership the team performed wonders by notching important victories and also getting the draws against big teams like that of Cameroon and Senegal.

After many years in exile, Taifa Stars managed to qualify the continental tournament for home grown players, capping a wonderful work done by the committee and the stakeholders in the country.

I 2007 there were party elections and Mo vied for the Membership of national Executive Committee [NEC] of CCM [ruling party] and got enough votes to secure his slot in the NEC sessions for the next five years.

Mohammed Dewji Wealth

The MeTL Group that Dewji now leads as CEO has its origins in catering for those generally overlooked by the market. In its previous stages, it was a small trading business set up by Dewji’s paternal grandmother, Fatima Dewji. The Dewji family originally hailed from India and crossed the ocean in the late 1800s, aware that they were headed to the continent of Africa, but unsure of where exactly they would land. Fatima Dewji originally started trading to help the family make ends meet in Singida, the poor, rural area of northwestern Tanzania where they eventually landed. However, her business flourished.

Today Mohammed Dewji is the third generation of a family of successful Tanzanian entrepreneurs. Over the past decade, as CEO he has grown his family’s business from a national trading house to a multi-billion-dollar, multinational conglomerate, generating a $2 billion fortune for himself in the process.

Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), the unique and diversified group of companies has made 39-year-old Mohammed Dewji one of Tanzania’s wealthiest and most important men.

Mohammed Dewji deals in tea farming and processing, cotton plantations and textile production, among others. Dewji makes it a point that in certain factories, MeTL uses manual labor where they might otherwise use machines purely, because it provides local employment. It is also smart because the more people employed, the richer the area, the more consumers MeTL has for some of the other fast moving consumer goods like beverages, detergent and edible oils that the company either imports or manufactures. In general, MeTL enjoys good relations with its unionized workers, and seeks to provide incentives for those it employs beyond regular wages, such as free meals and educational scholarships.

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