To the people of Burkina Faso, the name Oumarou Kanazoé rhymes with money, power and success. Kanazoé is a self made billionaire inspite of the little academic instruction he has received.
His business empire has assets ranging from more than 400 vehicles and equipment for public works, ten scrapers ($393,000 each) to four quarries and a helicopter.
Each month, Kanazoé spends roughly $400,000 for the maintenance of his construction equipment. He personally owns a range of Mercedes cars and two aircrafts acquired in 1977 and 1980.
Kanazoé employs half a million permanent workers including six expatriates and a number of contractors on his construction projects. It is estimated that his enterprise injects roughly forty million dollars into the economy of Burkina Faso each year.
El Hadj Oumarou Kanazoé is a success story in Burkina Faso. The only son of his mother, Kanazoé was born December 31st, 1927 in Yako 100 km north of Ouagadougou. As was often the case at the time in rural areas, Kanazoé went to the Koranic school to learn the Koran in Arabic. When he was twelve years old, his father died. So, young Kanazoé had to provide for his mother. He is known to have walked from Burkina Faso to Mali and Ghana to do business.
"My father died when I was twelve. He left me nothing as material or financial inheritance but gave me blessings for my conduct. These are an inexhaustible source of wealth".
Despite his success and good fortune, Oumarou Kanazoé has not forgotten his humble background and his moral education. His generosity is legendary. He builds schools mosques, churches and provides food to entire regions in periods of drought.
In 1994, he graciously built a dam with a capacity of 100 million m3 in Nakanbe Basin, about 135 km north of the country. The dam can irrigate 8,000 hectares with an annual fishery potential of about 500 tonnes. Grateful residents named the dam “The Kanazoé Dam”.
Every Friday, his two homes in the commercial center of Ouagadougou and in Pissy are taken over by the poor and needy who do not leave without a wad of bank notes.
This altruism is almost a psychological fixation with Kanazoé who says: "We are human beings only in our relations with others. Money must be used to help the needy. I am only wealthy through God. I spread happiness around me to thank Him.”
Islam is for Kanazoé what he holds most dearly. He has already made the pilgrimage to the holy places of Islam and invests heavily in the construction of religious buildings and in support of Imams.
He is the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of Burkina Faso. "My fortune is to serve God and my fellow citizens, create jobs, redistribute wealth and contribute to the well-being of the greatest possible number of people in Burkina Faso," he likes to proclaim.
Kanazoé’s dearest wish is “to have a long life and blessings from God in order to achieve the maximum for the benefit of human beings.”