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Mo Dewji: East Africa’s Only Dollar Billionaire Who Has Committed To Give Half Of His Wealth To Philanthropy

The latest Forbes billionaire rankings published on Monday, February 6 ranked Tanzanian businessman Mo Dewji as the 13th richest individual in Africa.

With an estimated fortune of Ksh 188 billion ($1.5 billion), the tycoon climbed two places from position 15 in last year’s rankings.

According to Forbes Magazine, the list of African billionaires involves those who reside or have their primary businesses in Africa.

The net worth was calculated using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 13, 2023.

Who is Mo Dewji and how did he rise to become the only dollar billionaire in East Africa?

Here is his story as told by WoK.

Background

Mo Dewji was born Mohammed Gulamabbas Dewji to Gulamabbas Dewji and Zubeda Dewji some 47 years ago in Ipembe, Singida.

His parents come from the Twelver Shias community whose ancestors originate from Gujarat, India, but settled in East Africa as trades in the late 1800s.

Dewji attended Arusha Primary School for his primary school education and later enrolled at International School of Tanganyika (IST) for his secondary school education.

His father enrolled him at Arnold Palmer Academy in Orlando in 1992, where he also attended Trinity Preparatory School for 11th grade.

He later moved to Saddle Brook High School in New Jersey where he completed his final year of high school.

Dewji successfully completed his final year and enrolled at Georgetown University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international business and finance and a minor in theology.

Business

Dewji’s father was hugely involved in business.

For instance, by the time Dewji started school, his father owned a kiosk and by the time he was done with university, his old man had founded Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL), a commodities trading business.

After graduating from university, Dewji returned to Tanzania and assumed a managerial position at MeTL.

Two years into it, he was appointed the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and he oversaw the establishment of MeTL Group of Companies.

MeTL Group of Companies was established in the early 2000s.

At the time, the Tanzanian government privatized companies that were making losses and as such, MeTL acquired some companies and brought them back to life by cutting down personnel expenses.

The acquisition under Dewji’s leadership saw the company’s revenue grow from Ksh 3.7 billion to over Ksh 100 billion between 1999 and 2018.

MeLT Group of Companies has invested in manufacturing, agriculture, trading, finance, mobile telephony, insurance, real estate, transport and logistics, and food and beverages.

The group has presence in 11 countries, and contributes 3.5% to Tanzania’s GDP.

Politics

Dewji is also a politician and a member of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

His political journey started in 2000 when he was just 25-years-old and wanted to become the Member of Parliament (MP) for Singida Urban.

However, despite winning the party nominations, CCM deemed Dewji too young to hold the legislative seat.

In 2005, he participated in the party nominations again and he was chosen by CCM to contest for the Singida Urban MP seat which he won.

He served as an MP for 10 years, and in 2015, he officially resigned from politics.

Foundation

Dewji runs the Mo Dewji Foundation which was founded in 2014.

He also joined the Giving Pledge where people commit to give at lease half of their wealth to philanthropy either during their lifetime or in their will.

He is the first Tanzania and one of the three Africans who have joined the pledge.