Two highly unknown, but soon to be, black billionaires! And they’re twins
With the way in which the “1 percent” of society has come
to be perceived over the past few years, it’s easy to assume the worst
of the world’s richest these days. They have it easy, they don’t know
what it means to care for others, they never have to work hard, and
they’re selfish. They are behind much of what’s wrong with the world.
After all, money is the root of all evil.
So when Alassane and Ousseini Kanazoe stroll out of a white Porsche
Panamera in the middle of Manhattan, thousands of miles away from their
home in Africa, it might be tempting to assume that they’d exude the
same type of snobbery that some find quintessential of the world’s
But then again, you’d only have to speak to them for a couple of minutes to realize that those assumptions would be wrong.
“Always be humble and respect people,” says Alassane, as he explains
the greatest lessons he’s taken from his father’s success. “You have got
to give back.”
It’s the type of response that a few people might find surprising coming
from two brothers who were born into one of their continent’s richest
families. Keep reading, though, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to
find that those words are common for these two men, who have had a sense
of moral responsibility ingrained in them.
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“Here, someone will spend a thousand on something without even
thinking, but back home you know that a thousand for some African
Villages is a lot of money,” said Ousseini as his brother nodded. “For
example, a thousand here is 500,000 [CFA Francs] where I come from. It’s
like a fortune. So even when you go out and you want to spend money,
you have to think first.”
The 23-year-old twins are the sons of Oumarou Kanazoe, founder of the
enterprise known as Groupe Kanazoe and the man who was widely recognized
as Burkina Faso’s richest and most important figure until his death in
2011 at the age of 84.
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The late Kanazoe began building his empire as a traveling salesman,
buying various commodities from different markets and selling them for a
profit in others, even if it meant traveling on foot across the borders
of Mali and Ghana. On his way to the top, Kanazoe made money off of
everything from the sale of peanuts and bicycles, to the acquisitions of
restaurants and trucks.
But while their father’s success has provided great wealth for the
brothers’ family, the twins assert that his legacy and the reputation he
built in Burkina Faso inspires them to work harder, instead of sitting
back and simply resting on their riches.
“In my country, we have a lot of people that we’re feeding,” says
Alassane. “We build of a lot of mosques, churches and we build a lot of
schools. So there’s a lot of pressure in the sense that you feel like
you have to work and you have to do your own thing. All of my brothers
have their own things. Each one of them has at least five or six
The two brothers are the youngest of thirteen siblings and came to New
York City towards the end of 2009, at which point they began to learn
English. Since then, they’ve studied and earned bachelor degrees in
accounting and finance. With doubts over whether they’ll pursue masters
degrees, debating if they even need them, the twins have put a lot of
thought into their objectives pertaining to Burkina Faso. Their main
priority is to continue the good work their father began focused on
improving the conditions of an impoverished country.
what the country wants is just infrastructure to help everything grow.
There are villages in Africa and you need roads to go from this village
to that village. If there are no roads, you’re not bringing technology
anywhere,” Ousseini said to explain why technology is not a primary
sector in which they allocate funds. “So right now, we’re investing
money in building roads, buildings and artificial lakes.”
With each glimpse that the Kanazoe twins provide into their lives, their
story becomes increasingly fascinating. They have, of course, enjoyed
the big city life, as any young millionaires would.
“We go out man,” Alassane reassured. “We go out a lot.”
Despite indulging a little, they never lose focus on want they want to
accomplish as heirs to an empire and what they are expected to do as
figures whom a nation idolizes, knowing that the esteemed family has
come through for the citizens on so many occasions before. It’s only
natural for the brothers to always remember their roots and to keep the
needs of others at the forefront of their agendas. After all, their
father acted in the same way.
“Every time my dad wanted to make money, he wanted to help people.
Before, he was the only one who could build roads back home. Then his
friends around him, people that wanted to make companies, instead of
going to the bank, they would go to him and he’d give them the money.
And sometimes, even if you don’t give him back his money, he would
understand that, ‘you’re doing something good.’ He was all about making
people’s lives better.”
Just what exactly the Kanazoe twins do with the wealth they’ve inherited
and the financial strides they make with their own work in the future
remains to be seen. But whatever happens, it’s safe to say they’ll act
with humility and steer clear of complacency.
“You always want something more, it’s human nature. You want more.”
Ousseini said before Alessane added, “and my family, we’re not feeling
comfortable with what we have. Never.”