Mohammed Dewji: Africa’s ‘youngest billionaire’ abducted in Tanzania
Africa’s youngest billionaire has been kidnapped by gunmen in Dar es Salaam, according to officials. Mohammed Dewji, 43, who is said to have a fortune of $1.5bn (£1.1bn) and is the president of MeTL Group, which operates in about 10 countries across sectors ranging from agriculture to transport and food, was abducted as he entered a hotel gym. The regional governor, Paul Makonda, said: “Initial information indicates he was kidnapped by whites travelling in two vehicles. This kind of incident is new here.” Lazaro Mambosasa, the Dar es Salaam police chief, told a press conference the kidnappers had “shot into the air” before bundling Dewji into a car. He said police were looking for suspects and had already made arrests. Dewji was born in Tanzania and studied at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He served as an MP from 2005 to 2015. In 2013, he became the first Tanzanian to be on the cover of Forbes magazine, and was named Forbes Africa person of the year in 2015. Dewji is also the main shareholder in Simba football club, based in Dar es Salaam.
He is ranked 17th by Forbes on its list of Africa’s billionaires. Dewji is married with three children. In 2016, he signed a pledge to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes.
Who is Mohammed Dewji?
Financial magazine Forbes puts his wealth at $1.5bn (£980m), and has described him as Tanzania’s only billionaire. In a 2017 report, it said Mr Dewji was Africa’s youngest billionaire. Mr Dewji is also a major sponsor of one of Tanzania’s biggest football teams, Simba. He promised in 2016 to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes, Forbes said. Mr Dewji, locally known as Mo, is credited with turning his family business from a wholesale and retail enterprise into a pan-African conglomerate, reports the BBC’s Athuman Mtulya from Dar es Salaam. His company, MeTL, has interests in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in at least six African states. Mr Dewji served as a ruling party MP for a decade until 2015. He told the BBC in a 2014 interview that this possibly made it easier for him to meet top politicians, but it did not give him an unfair advantage, as other businessmen also had access to them.
‘Relaxed approach to security’
Mohammed Dewji has huge celebrity status in Tanzania. You would be hard pressed to find a person in Dar es Salaam who did not know of Mohammed or the Dewji family and he would often draw large crowds at public events. But despite his wealth and fame he has always been incredibly relaxed in his approach to security – in fact all the Dewji family were. He never moved with security guards or bouncers and would often pop out to the gym on his lunch break or to meet friends after work unaccompanied. In his day to day life he didn’t look like a billionaire – he was a friendly, affable young man going about his business.