We have a lot of successful entrepreneurs in Africa, and they are not just successful and known in their own homeland and households but the billionaires – yes, billionaires – are known all over the world.
They didn’t get there by cutting corners or being shady or anything of the sort but by being the true embodiment of what every entrepreneur should aspire to be – dedicated, focused, committed, create opportunities, take advantage at the right time and being smart.
One of such people is Cletus Ibeto and if you don’t feel a man worth $3.7 billion is successful, there is something up somewhere.
Born on the 6th of November in the year 1952 to the Ibeto family, an average one at that, Ibeto was having it all smooth till he was old enough to start his secondary school education. What he didn’t know then was that life was about to throw him a curveball that he wasn’t expecting. His father, who had already sent Ibeto’s two older brothers to school, felt he couldn’t go the same way with all of his sons and opted that Ibeto learned a trade instead. This didn’t t down well with him but unknown to him at the time, this was the path fate had chosen out for him to tread.
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Cletus Ibeto was sent to a master at Onitsha to be an apprentice and in this place, he was treated with an iron hand so much that he started to totally forget the idea of school. Just as he was about to start getting into the business and looking forward to his freedom from his master, the civil war started and he had to leave his master to join the war. Being lower-ranking personnel, he was simply made to run errands for the masters in the war instead of going to the battlefield himself. By the time the war was over, he still looked to start a trade and so approached his brother for financial help. His brother, Louis, gifted Ibeto a leather handbag and a suit which he sold alongside other things to raise enough money to start his business.
The breakthrough came during the initial period of the Shehu Shagari administration when all import bans were removed. Cletus Ibeto took advantage of this time and started mass importation, bringing in containers upon containers. To further boost the business, he invested all of the profits he made from the business back into it and made even more. This way, he kept on expanding massively till the import ban came back into being and with the massive wealth he had amassed, he was able to get a license that was not only scarce then but equally expensive. He stayed on top of the market this way for many years and his wealth now is proof of what those years yielded.
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He also branched out from the importation business when in 1995, he founded a manufacturing plant where auto spare parts were being made and it went on to be, and still remain, the largest in the country.
Ibeto’s journey was simply a grass to grace story, true, but he saw an opportunity and he didn’t wait to think about the risks of the market but just went into it with the true spirit of an entrepreneur and here he is today, one of the most celebrated business moguls in the world.