06 December, 2012

Said Bakhresa and the Hadhrami Influence in Tanzania

Arabs (mainly Yemenis and Omanis), Iranians and Indians have all had long relationships, dating thousands of years, mainly in trade and in Islam - with the Tanzanian coast and its island of Zanzibar. And the Omanis, ruled a part of Tanzania: Zanzibar was a part of the Sultanate of Oman from 1698 to 1886/1892. But with time, when it comes to religious and financial influence and clout in Tanzania, the Hadharem have had the most impact. Today, descendants of people from Hadhramout can be found in every, major city or town or trading center in Tanzania; both in the mainland and the island of Zanzibar. Most of these Hadharem do nor speak Arabic any more, but are still very attached to Hadharmaut and the Hadhrami culture. Many successful traders and businessmen in the country are Hadharem. A Hadhrami, Said Salim Awadh Bakhresa of the Bakhresa Grroup of Companies, became the first Tanzanian, to make it in to the Forbe's List of rich people. He is Tanzania's richest man and Africa's 30th richest.

Said Salim Bakhresa is the richest Tanzanian, with a fortune of about 992 billion Tanzanian Shillings (about 620 million US$). Bakhresa is said to have dropped out of school at the age of 14 (some say 17) and started out selling a potato mix. He then opened a small restaurant in Dar es Salaam in the 1970s and, as the restaurant operation expanded, Mr Bakhresa moved on to grain milling and food production - which are now now the flagship of the Bakhresa Group. The multinational conglomerate manufactures a wide range of things—from maize flour to chocolate, ice cream, soft drinks and paper bags. With annual sales of $800 million, the group now has manufacturing operations in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda and Mozambique and employs over 2,000 people, according to reports. The company's interests now include - grain milling, confectioneries  frozen foods, beverages, packaging, logistics and real estate. The group’s Azam brand is the most popular manufacturer of chocolates and ice cream in the region; and the Bakhresa Group is now the largest producer of wheat flour in East Africa. The company is planning to expand in to other countries. Said Bakhresa, like most wealthy Hadhrami around the world, is humble, shuns the media and spotlight - which can easily be misinterpreted as being reclusive. More about Bakhresa here.
Any one who knows Tanzania or has been there, will have noticed the many Arabs there. Most of these are of Hadhrami origin. In the remotest corners of the country, there would be a Hadhrami family there; or their descendants. Some of these descendants, have been so intermarried and assimilated with indigenous Tanzanians so much, that they don't look like Arabs any more or have completely lost touch with their roots in Hadhramawt.