Over the years, Lebanon’s strongest export has been its citizens, who remit billions of dollars annually back to their country. Much of this capital flow has originated from Nigeria, where Lebanese immigrants settled as early as 1885. The Lebanese diaspora now dominates diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy from hospitality to real estate as well as construction and manufacturing.
Joint venture partnerships
South Energyx Nigeria Limited (a subsidiary of the Chagoury Group) in partnership with the Lagos State government, are reclaiming nine million square meters of land from the Atlantic Ocean to create Eko Atlantic city, which will accommodate 250,000 residents and provide West Africa with a world-class commercial hub.
Hi-Tech Construction, another arm of the Chagoury Group, is engaged in a joint venture with the Federal Ministry of Works for the development of approximately 1,630,000 square meters in the Banana Island in Lagos State.
Furthermore, the Mitsulif Group (owned by the Abil Lama family) is engaged in a major expansion of its escalators business via a joint venture with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation.
Sectoral investments by the Lebanese are strategic and include:
Seven Up Bottling PLC, major manufacturers of soft drinks in Nigeria, established by the El-Khalil family in 1960.
Moukarim Industries, founded by the Moukarim family in 1959, as a manufacturer of mattresses, and polyurethane blocks. it was recently acquired by the Dubai-based Abraaj Group with the founding family retaining a minority stake.
Eko Hotels Limited, Nigeria’s largest hotel chain, along with Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, has been acquired by the Chagoury Group.
AIM Group Limited, established in 1979 by the grandfather of current chairperson Mrs Saada Moussalli (Arc.), provides services in urban and regional planning, architecture and engineering. It has a property subsidiary, Narelli International Limited, and a food division, General Foods and Sweet Manufacturing. It also owns COOL FM and WAZOBIA FM stations, and recently signed an agreement with Yahsat of Abu Dhabi to sell broadband services in Nigeria.
Networks and philanthropy
The Chagourys (Gilbert and Ronald), founded the Chagoury Group and are the most successful Lebanese family in Nigeria. With interests in construction (C&C Construction, Hi-tech Construction, Fleetwood Transportation), property development (Eko Atlantic Development, Ocean Parade Limited), manufacturing (Grands Flour Mills, Ragolis Waters Limited, Glassforce), hotels (Hotel Presidential, Eko Hotels), healthcare (Ideal Eagle Hospital), catering (Courdeau Catering) and international financing, it is listed as one of Africa’s largest conglomerates.
Gilbert, born in Nigeria in 1946, has served as an Ambassador to the Vatican and to UNESCO, as economic adviser to former president Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, and is a close associate to former Nigerian Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalam Abubakar, as well as an associate to Senate president Olusola Saraki. A contributor to president Buhari’s electoral campaign, he has also funded the Clintons’ campaigns since the 1990s and is a major donor to the Clinton Foundation.
Another notable networker is Bassim Haidar, a telecommunication entrepreneur and philanthropist who was appointed a member of Amnesty International council. Co-founder of GMT Shipping Services Limited, and CEO of Channel IT Group, a Nigerian-based telecommunication company operating in over 19 countries in Africa, South America and the Middle East.
Others to watch
Issam Darwish, CEO of IHS Towers (Africa’s largest provider of telecom tower), which raised US$2bn in one of the largest equity funding exercise by an African firm; Tatiana Nouri of AIM Group and Louhna Fakhri Baker of Craft Gourmet Group Lagos.