The lobby at Intercontinental Hotel last week came alive as some of the richest men in Africa checked into the hotel ready to cut major deals in Kenya.
The Nigerian led by their President Goodluck Jonathan had landed in town in style.
Wearing designer suits and expensive-looking traditional agbadas, the large delegation of billionaires, business men and women, industry captains, governors and government officials created a buzz in Nairobi for the three days they were in town.
After all, when did we last have a group of billionaires coming to town all at the same time?
The delegation of over 50 high profile business people from Nigeria, with a combined net worth running into billions of dollars, came in style. They landed in about 10 private jets, while the commercial flights, mainly Kenya Airways, did booming business ferrying the ones who did not fly their personal jets.
President Jonathan and his delegation were in the country to strengthen ties between the West African country and Kenya. Major deals were signed with others expected to be announced in the near future as Kenyans and Nigerians look to doing multi-billion business together.
By the time the Kenyan hosts arrived at the conference room on Friday morning, the Nigerians had already taken charge having put up their banners well ahead of their Kenya hosts.
As described by a businessman who was at the conference, “at one point, it looked like they were hosting the Kenyans. Is it any wonder that these guys are making so much money for their companies? They know the meaning of the saying, “Time is money.” And they take this seriously.
Leading the delegation was Africa’s wealthiest man, (according to the Forbes list of billionaires 2012) and 25rd richest person in the world, Aliko Dangote. The self-made billionaire, owner of Dangote Group, is estimated to have a net worth of about $16.1 billion (Sh1.4 trillion). This is said to have gone up to $20billion in the recent past.
During the visit, Dangote, 56, announced plans to put up a Sh34 billion ($400 million) cement factory in Mombasa. The billionaire was rumoured to be scouting for business in Kenya and is expected to invest more including looking for a limestone mining license in Kenya.
Africa’s 19th richest man, Jim Ovia according to the Forbes List of November 2012, was also in town. He is the founder of Visafone Communication and boasts of a net worth of $825 million (Sh71.8 billion).
Oba Otudeko, Africa’s 26th richest man, according to Forbes list of African billionaires, with a net worth of about $575 million (Sh50 billion) was also in town. The tycoon’s conglomerate Honeywell Group has interests in oil, gas, flour million, real estate and marine transportation.
Also in the delegation was Harvard-educated banker, economist and Philanthropist Tony Elumelu, 50. He is renowned for turning around distressed UBA Bank, which has a growing presence in Kenya, after he took over in 1997 and left in 2010 to concentrate his efforts in The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
He was accompanied by fellow billionaire Femi Otedola, the director and chief executive of Forte Oil, a petroleum marketing company, who has been on the Forbes billionaire list with a net worth of about $1.2 billion (Sh105 billion).
Also in the delegation was the founder of Nestoil PLC, Nigeria’s foremost indigenous oil and gas company, Ernest Nnaemeka Azudialu-Obiejesi. He sits on the board of several companies in Nigeria.
The coming of the Nigerian business men marked a step towards improved relations between Kenya and the West African country. Trade between Kenya and Nigeria has been slowed down by a maze of regulations that have prevented entrepreneurs from following business leads.
During the visit, several MoUs were signed in different sectors including agriculture, livestock and fisheries cooperation, an MoU in tourism, twinning of cities and towns, as well as those in gas and oil.
The business forum was led by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Kenyan Government is looking to remove the restrictions on visas to allow easier movement for Nigerians to Kenya. The directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is expected to attract more visitors from the west African country with those investing in the country getting a five to 10-year visa extension.
City hotels, especially Hotel Intercontinental, were some of the biggest beneficiaries of the Nigerians coming to Nairobi. The city hotel was fully booked with President Jonathan staying at its presidential suite.
Some of the flamboyant Nigerians were forced to settle for smaller rooms than they are used to as the suites were fully occupied by the who’s who in the entourage. Some opted to stay in other hotels across the city.
At one point, Kenyans, especially the ladies, took to social media to find out where the Nigerians were staying because they wanted to see their flamboyant lifestyle from close quarters. Nigerians’ love of big spending and grand lifestyle including luxury products attracted the attention of many.
Their spending capacity is something the tourism sector is looking to tap into. In 2012, Nigerians were listed as the fourth biggest foreign spenders in the UK paying an average of £500 (Sh68,500) in each shop where they make purchases – which is four times what the average UK shopper spends.
Currently, there are 11 Nigerians on the Forbes list of Africa richest people. The number of rich people in the West African country has been on the rise leading the country to be one of the largest consumers of luxury goods on the continent.
These high net-worth individuals are some of the ones driving the private jet business in Africa. Though the biggest number of private jets in Africa are in South Africa, Nigeria is becoming a big market mainly driven by individuals and wealthy investors like Dangote and Elumelu.
Apart from Jets, champagne consumption is another product where the West African come tops. Research Company Euromonitor found the west African country had the fastest growing rate of new consumptions in the world, second only to France and ahead of other richer markets.
Because they were hosted by the Kenyan Chamber of Commerce, the Nigerians probably did not get the opportunity to show Kenyans how to spend good money. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of more visits where we shall see money being spend lavishly.