Tanzania's richest man matches his specs with ties

Saturday August 20 2016

Mohammed Dewji currently runs the family

Mohammed Dewji currently runs the family business, Mohammed Enterprises Ltd (MeTL), started by his father Gulam Dewji. They own 75 per cent of MeTL Group and he also serves as its chief executive officer. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By Christopher Kidanka

Mohammed Dewji. He is a well-known Tanzanian entrepreneur and philanthropist who is also a respected figure in sporting circles and in politics after serving as Member of Parliament for Singida Urban constituency from 2005-2015.

In March 2015, Forbes magazine named him as the 31st richest person in Africa, with a net worth of an estimated $1.25 billion. Earlier in 2013, the magazine had also ranked him as the first Tanzanian dollar billionaire. Recently Dewji announced that he is donating a big chunk of his wealth to charity.

Dewji was born in 1975 in Singida, central Tanzania. He attended Arusha Primary School and the International School of Tanganyika for his secondary education.

In 1994, he obtained a diploma from Saddlebrook High School in Florida in the US, and was a contemporary of the now retired international tennis star Jennifer Capriati.

In 1998 he graduated from Georgetown University in Washington DC, with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and Finance.

He currently runs the family business, Mohammed Enterprises Ltd (MeTL), started by his father Gulam Dewji. They own 75 per cent of MeTL Group and he also serves as its chief executive officer.

MeTL Group of companies boasts of being the second biggest employer after the government and the largest privately owned conglomerate in Tanzania. The company’s business interests includes textiles, manufacturing, agriculture, distribution and real estate.

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What’s your off-duty passion?

Other than working out every day, I love playing golf. I also enjoy tranquil quality time in the outdoors.

What would you have been if you had not become a businessman?

I think I could have been doing social service in whatever small capacity to make the world a better place.

What signifies your personal style?

I would define my style as “sophisticated simplicity” or “sophistication made simple” if that makes sense. This is how I dress whether it is for a board meeting, a football game or Sunday at the beach with my children.

How do you manage your wardrobe?

I hate spending too much time shopping. I wear Gucci, Armando and Zenial suits and their fitters come to the office, where I spend 10-15 minutes choosing the fabric and ties.

While you are in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?

Working. Running the MeTL conglomerate is a full time job. I’m constantly working whether physically in the office, factories or out with the children for different sporting activities.

Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?

Hands down, the Serengeti. It offers some of the best wildlife viewing in the world.

Do you have a must-visit list?

I haven’t visited much of South America and Eastern Europe. I would also love to see much of the rest of Tanzania.

What do you see as East Africa’s strength?

There are many, especially when you take into context each individual country. In a snapshot, the region has strong and growing regional integration; a growing consumer class; a young and educated workforce making it an ideal location for entrepreneurs; a well-endowed natural resource base and sound economic stability and sustained growth projections for the next few years.

What’s your best collection?

I have a fetish for eye glasses. I have a 100 pairs of eye glasses. I like to match my eye glasses with my tie.

What is the most thoughtful gift you have ever received?

On my 40th birthday, my children gave me framed pictures. My youngest son Photoshopped the Forbes magazine cover I was on and replaced my picture with his. My middle son took The Citizen and Photoshopped himself as a politician who has built water wells, provided education and healthcare to the public. My oldest daughter put herself on the cover of Georgetown magazine. Georgetown is a college in the US where I gave a talk on the importance of education.

What’s the most thoughtful gift you have ever given?

There is a Swahili saying that goes, Tenda wema nenda zako (do a good deed and walk away) and as a practising Muslim, I don’t keep tabs of the good things I have done for other people.

Your last great read?

It probably my best read too. It is a book called Nahj ul-Balagha, Arabic for “The Peak of Eloquence.” It is a collection of sermons, letters, tafsirs and narrations of the fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law to Prophet Muhammad. The collection gives instructions on justice and caring for the poor.

Which film has impacted you the most?

A Beautiful Mind, based on the true life story of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia but overcame it and in 1994, won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his revolutionary work on game theory.

What’s your favourite music?

I avoid mainstream music as the content contradicts my way of life. However, one of my favourite artistes is Maher Zain because of his peaceful music. The song Ya Nabi Salam Alayka is one of my favourite.

What is never missing from your fridge?

Water and ice cream. Sometimes I think it’s not very healthy but that’s the only sugar I take.