He was the African definition of a self-made billionaire having come from very humble beginnings to becoming arguably the richest man in Morocco.
Miloud Chaabi was a Moroccan business mogul who died on the 16th of April, 2016 after living what many would consider a fulfilling life. He was the African definition of a self-made billionaire having come from very humble beginnings to becoming arguably the richest man in Morocco. His net worth in the last Forbes estimation came just shy of a billion United States dollars due to a fall in the share price of the proxy used by Forbes for valuation of Chaabi’s assets. In prior years, his worth had rocketed to a monstrous $2.1 billion, which had made him the richest man in Morocco. Just how did a goat-herder end up with so much wealth?
Miloud Chaabi was born on the 15th of September, 1930 in Morocco’s Chadma. He acquired his education from a mosque and started working as a goat herder and a farmer. By fifteen, Chaabi had saved up enough money to finance his move from Marrakech where he stayed to Kenitra. With an obviously sharp mind and insurmountable resolve, Chaabi managed to register a construction company at the very tender age of nineteen in 1948. If the mogul’s start should teach Africans anything, it is that there is never a time called “too soon” to start going after success. African youths may want to take a leaf from Chaabi and cultivate a spirit of saving and investing.
In Kenitra, the goat herder did not get a red-carpet welcome into the world of entrepreneurship. If anything, the odds were against him since business was restricted to the French, Jews and well known Moroccan families. Chaabi was obviously out of his depths here but his success is testament of the fact that no success is ever recorded from not trying. When taken into today’s context, the economies of some African countries are not as inviting for business but only those who dare take calculated risks have any chance of achieving the success they seek.
After considerable success with his construction venture, Chaabi developed an interest in the ceramic industry and started his own ceramic company in 1964. After gaining sufficient expertise in the field, he was now on the lookout for investment opportunities. His offer to invest in a French company was however rejected but this did not deter him. This was the turning point in Chaabi’s life as he strategically drove the company to the verge of bankruptcy. His point of attack was simple; providing quality products at competitive prices. The French company capitulated and sold all of its property to Chaabi who then founded the YNNA Group, one of the most powerful Moroccan companies even now. It is a plot twist of biblical proportions; a shepherd boy was able to strike down the proverbial Goliath using tact and drive. YNNA now “develops real estate, operates hotels and supermarkets, and is the majority owner of SNEP, a chemical manufacturer in Morocco”.
Being able to start companies and acquire property is a skill on its own but values kept Chaabi where he was. He was a very religious man who did not allow his changing role in the society to change him. Ventures Africa has him on record saying, “Bribe seekers know who to look for and my company’s reputation for integrity means I never get hassled into bribery.”
His hotels and supermarkets did not sell alcoholic beverages in line with his beliefs. Chaabi also happened to be a big community aid provider through his Miloud Chaabi Foundation; one of the biggest organisations of its kind in Northern Africa. The high point of his “giving back” was when he gave 10% of his fortune towards the building of the first American University in Morocco in conjunction with the University of Maryland, College Park USA. Of Miloud Chaabi, Emerald Emerging Markets said, “Virtually all the decisions taken within his companies are influenced by his moral convictions and his values. Miloud Chaabi, listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the top 40 billionaires in Africa is a principled and revered individual who has been spiritually leading his businesses in various sectors since 1948.”
Every entrepreneurial story is unique in its own way and not everyone will ply the same route taken by Chaabi with equal success but surely his rags to riches story should inspire more Africans to make moves where they are stationed.
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