NIGERIAN tycoon Aliko Dangote says his country will not import anything any longer.
Speaking during Finacial Times’ 4th annual Africa Summit at Claridges in London last week, Dangote, whose business has extended to several African countries, including Zambia where he has successfully put up a cement manufacturing company, trading competitively against Lafarge’s Mphamvu, told the delegates that the key to his success was self-sufficiency, backward integration and a manufacturing strategy that extracted value from entire processes.
He said this when Financial Times editor-in-chief Lionel Barber conducted an extraordinarily candid public conversation with him in the presence of Nigerian vice-president Professor Yemi Osingajo, Congolese presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi, and about 300 business leaders.
“We are not going to import anything any longer,” Dangote said. “In Nigeria, we are learning how to produce the entire value chain.”
Once a heavy importer of fertilizer, Nigeria is now gearing up to produce three million tonnes of locally manufactured fertilizer, transforming the nation into one of the largest fertilizer exporters in Africa. In 2007, Nigeria was the second largest importer of cement after the US, Dangote reminded the audience of business elites.
“Today, we have not only satisfied domestic needs; we have become a leading exporter of 6-7 million tonnes of cement,”
Dangote, now diversifying into agriculture, has eyes on the dairy industry motivated by the fact that “98 per cent of all milk consumed in Nigeria is imported”, same for rice.
Dangote Group has invested heavily in rice production through local farmers and then offering to buy back the one million tonnes at open market prices that they were growing.
“Soon we will be able to feed not only Nigeria but the entire 320 million large West African market,”
His business acumen was on rare exhibition as Barber himself seemed impressed with the business mogul’s quick familiarity with the nuts and bolts of his businesses.
“Are we going to continue to import everything?” Dangote asked.
“Freight rates are now cheap but they will go up soon. A population of over 200 million cannot continue to import basic needs on a daily basis.”
According to Dangote, Africa will, by 2100, represent 49 per cent of the world’s population, up from 30 per cent today.
“If you don’t think big, we won’t grow at all,” he said. “In Africa, you have to play long-term.”
When asked which other African nations he thought were good growth opportunities apart from Nigeria, Dangote said: “Aside from Nigeria? I’d have to pick Nigeria. I am a big fan of Nigeria. We are only using eight per cent of our land.”