Aliko Dangote, 58, is Africa’s richest man, with an estimated net worth of more than USD20 billion, according to Forbes. He’s the president, founder and chief executive of the Dagnote Group, which focuses on commodity manufacturing. The Nigerian businessman began his career in the 1970s as a trader of sugar, cement and rice before venturing into full-scale manufacturing. As the head of a multinational corporation, Dagnote now has his eyes set on Ethiopia, where he is launching a cement manufacturing plant and aspires to venture into fertilizer and sugar industries. He recently visited the progress of his soon-to-start production cement plant in the Adda Berga Wereda of West Shewa, near the capital Addis. EBR’s Amanyehun Sisay spoke with the world-renowned businessman during his visit about his latest projects and how he hopes to create more jobs for Africans in the future. The following is an excerpt.
Can you give me your thoughts on the progress of the construction & your cement factory in Ethiopia?
The construction of the factory is progressing very well. And we’ve built a world-class plant that I believe cannot be found even in Europe. This will give us the best quality cement, which I think is very difficult for our competitors to match and it will be in the market very soon.
Do you have a specific time frame to start sending your product to the market?
I think it will be on the market by next month.
How much money have you invested in the project?
We invested almost USD600 million because we also bought close to 500 trucks that will arrive in June.
From where did you purchase the trucks?
We bought them from this joint venture from Austria and China.
In Ethiopia, you have invested in the cement industry. There is also a big market for companies that produce fertilizer and sugar. Are you planning to invest in these sectors?
I am looking into that. As we progress, we will see what the next level is. We are not temporary investors. When we came to Ethiopia…with our investment capital, we didn’t borrow money from Ethiopian banks. We didn’t take a single dollar from the Ethiopian economy, even though it comes at a cost because of the gradual devaluation of Ethiopian currency. But it is ok because we are here to stay for good. This is our home. When you come into your house, you will not try to take things out but invest your money more in your home.
Forbes recently reported that due to the devaluation of the Nigerian currency and the fall of oil prices in the international market, your net worth declined. What do you say about that?
The wealth of a company is like the health of human being. Today you are very well but tomorrow you may have a bitter fever. But it is okay because most of what happened is a risk, which was totally discounted and some of it are started to recover. But it is not our focus currently. The focus is the health of our business, how much we are making and how fast is our growth. I think by 2020 we will grow [more than fourfold].
You are planning to invest in projects in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram has a presence, to create job opportunities for 180,000 people. Can you tell me more about these projects?
The investment will mainly be in the agriculture sector. In agriculture, you can actually create quite a lot of jobs. Part of the project will produce two million tonnes sugar and one million tonnes of rice. The implementation of these projects will take between four and five years. But it will actually create job opportunities for a lot of people.
Our main focus here is to see how we conserve foreign exchange. Nigeria will be one of the largest fertilizer exporting countries next year. By 2016 we will export more than 3 million tonnes of urea and ammonia. This means for the next 10 to 15 years, Nigeria will not import any petroleum products. Rather, we will export.
Do you have any projects planned for Ethiopia in the future?
We are going to develop quite a lot of industries across Africa, including in Ethiopia. We want to make sure that African people are encouraged to join the bandwagon of a [developing] Africa. EBR
3rd Year • June 16 – July 15 2015 • No. 28