• Nigeria set to become largest cement exporting country
• How smuggling killed my first venture, by Dangote
• Fertiliser, petro-chemical companies to be ready in two years
To successfully free Nigeria’s huge natural and human resources for development and create an economy that supports sustainable businesses, entrepreneurs must cultivate a workable model that enables them not only to penetrate the local market but also to export their products to earn foreign exchange.
This was the business template given by a man for whom it has worked considerably – celebrated industrialist and billionaire, Aliko Dangote. For Dangote, it is such a template that is needed in Nigeria and indeed Africa to replicate accomplished entrepreneurs like himself.
Dangote spoke at the weekend in Lagos when he was officially presented with The Guardian Man of the Year 2015 Award at a ceremony graced by many business leaders.
The Chairman of Guardian Newspapers Limited (GNL), Lady Maiden Ibru, who presented the award to Africa’s richest man, said that the choice of Dangote was reached after the Editorial Board of The Guardian made nominations, followed by weeks of debate, and an eventual shortlist of candidates, at the end of which the winner was announced on New Year Day.
Noting that Dangote was an easier pick for his pedigree in making the greatest impact on society and industry, she said: “In our estimation, he stood shoulders higher than others in his bold efforts to become the builder of modern Africa, to create jobs for our teeming population and courageously confront conventional wisdom that says an African entrepreneur stands no chance when pitted against multinational firms from Europe, North America and Asia.”
She added: “In the process, Alhaji Aliko has rewritten the book that indicates that Africans would rather patronise western and Asian firms than one of their own. In choosing Dangote, The Guardian is making a poignant statement about the role of the newspaper in the society. One of which is identifying heroes and publicising good examples as a way of redirecting the values of the society.”
Receiving the award, Dangote thanked the management and staff of the flagship of the nation’s media for picking him for the honour, noting that though he received two other awards last year from Forbes magazine, he cherished the award from The Guardian over them because it showed he was being appreciated at home.
Speaking on the business model, which has seen him towering over his peers, he said: “If we must move forward, then we must do things for which we wouldn’t have to go to the Central Bank to ask for foreign exchange. The only way is to do the real industrialisation where we don’t just need raw materials. We started investing in industries since 1995. But the first one was a textile company in 1989 and we were burnt to death by smugglers. We laid off over 6,000 people and ran away. We said we wouldn’t go back to that.
“The only way we can develop our country and continent is by us trying to be self-sufficient, and also try to export. And I think what we are going to achieve in the next two years is for Nigeria to become the highest exporter of cement.”
On why he thinks he got the award, he said: “I think one of my achievements has been opening factories outside Nigeria.They have been looking for the cement we produce in Tanzania. I went with Aig Imuokhuede to invest outside Nigeria. When we announced at that time that we were going to produce a million tonnes of cement, the guys didn’t believe it. They said these Nigerians have come with their problems again o!”
On the controversy of cement pricing, he said: “Everyone, right from the president to the security guard at home, is worried about the price of cement. This applies to even those that are not building houses; it is understandable because they relate it with the rent they pay.
“Another thing we have achieved is that in any country where we operate today, we have taken down prices. This is just like what we did in the country in September, when we took prices down by almost 35 per cent.”
On his efforts to rev up local production in different sectors of the economy, Dangote said: “We have thought of how to take Nigeria to the next level. We have to look at areas where Nigeria is not doing well in terms of local production. The first one of such is refinery. So, we are building a 650,000-barrel per day facility refinery. The present capacity in the country, including those working and those that are not, is 450,000 bpd. Our petro-chemical plant is 10 times of the capacity at Eleme, which has 120,000 capacity. So we would be the largest petrochemical company in Africa.
“For fertiliser, we are not only trying to satisfy the market because there is Notore. We have a three million tonnes capacity. With all these, we are trying to make sure we satisfy local need and also have enough for export.”
According to him, Nigeria needs novel ideas to address its electricity challenges, arguing that other than insufficient gas, there is the need to tackle issues with the distribution chain.
He said: “I think the only way to address our power issues is to have enough gas and sort out the distribution, which is important. This is because, unless you collect money from the consumers, you cannot grow. That is critical.
“We are building two sub-sea gas pipelines coming from Bonny, which are about 550km. They are going to take 3bcf of gas, which is about the same size of LNG. We are not going to consume it all alone. We are going to transfer the rest to willing producers and charge them for its use. This would at least free up the West African Gas pipeline.”
He thanked his funding partners, especially bankers, who have been part of his success story, noting: “I must thank our bankers, because they have believed in us along the way. Without their support, we won’t be where we are.
“I remember when the share capital of the banks was too small. They were giving us commercial papers every 90 days. But we really appreciate them. We have grown together.”
Commenting on the uncommon zeal of the recipient, the Chief Operating Officer of GNL, Mr. Alexander Thomopoulous, said that he was a source of “pride to Nigeria, Africa and the black race across the world. His humility and character stand him out.”
In the same vein, the Managing Director of The Guardian, Mr. Emeka Eluem Izeze, introduced the newspaper’s sister company, Guardian TV, noting that the company was expanding its profile in the industry.
The Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Debo Adesina, noted that the ceremony was not about Dangote’s assets, but his contribution to building local capacity over the years.
The dignitaries at the event were former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Chris Ali; Mrs. Mariam Uwais; His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander Gianniris of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archdiocese of Nigeria; former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba and Chairman of Phillips Consulting, Folusho Phillips.
Others included Pioneer Managing Director of GT Bank, Fola Adeola; former Deputy Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tunde Lemo; Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, and National President Nigeria-American Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Binto Famutimi.