Economic downturn: Only Manufacturing, Agric revolution can save Nigeria – Dangote Group Boss

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The unprecedented crash of the crude oil price in the international market and subsequent devaluation of the Naira has been described as a pointer to the fact that the salvation of the Nigerian economy in the future depends on massive agricultural revolution and local manufacturing.
Making this claim in Lagos is the Group Executive Director of Dangote Group, Devakumar Edwin, who said that the development of the nation’s vast agric potential is the only solution to the incessant distortion to Nigeria’s economy by market forces.
He stated while fielding question from newsmen in his office that Nigeria has left its economic fortunes to the vagaries of the international market forces through excessive importation and that it was high time private investors latched in on this situation and help the government out by going serious agriculture and manufacturing.
This, he noted, had been long forsaken by the Alhaji Aliko Dangote-led conglomerate which was why the company has made a huge investment in agriculture and manufacturing by delving into sugar and rice cultivation, fertilizer production, oil and gas refinery as well as petrochemicals.
“And these twin activities are the sectors with huge potential for employment generation which the country is in dire need of now”
Edwin said “in our sugar business, you see Savannah Sugar which we have today apart from the direct employment of 4,000 people, during investing and plantation, we engage almost 20,000 people and there is a small farm where we have about less than 10,000 hectares and the cultivation is going on today employing another 10,000 people and today, we are talking about 200,000 hectare of land, savannah plant for sugar where almost 200,000 hectares will be producing 20 million tonnes of cane and 2 million tonnes of sugar.
“You can imagine the amount of employment we are going to create in the agricultural sector and this is a big intervention, so most of the businesses we have done in the course of our investments will still trickle down to the cities. In Lagos, we have the massive investment in our flour mills, it is in Ilorin, Kano, Calabar because it was all put up close to consumption centres.
“However, when we started going into cement, we decided that it has to go close to raw materials because it is more expensive to transport the raw materials, but again, if you see Obajana, it is quite close to Lokoja and Ibese is next door to Lagos, Gboko is close to Makurdi all still inside the country but closer to major cities, but if you talk about farming, we are just looking for arable lands and we are just going right deep into the rural areas, so that people in those areas will see no reason to migrate to the cities, because if they do, it would put a lot of pressure on the cities.
“The refinery will improve the petrochemical industry, the fertilizer plant will create a lot of employment and the employment to be generated in the agricultural sector is phenomenon and if you look at the trade transport sector again, we have about an operation of 6000 trucks a day which we are also trying to increase. 6000 trucks, we are talking about 6000 drivers and apart from that, we have workshops, we have vulcanisers, filling stations, you can see the trickling down benefits from people on loading the cement, off loading the cement in warehouses, the benefits are huge and the employment opportunities we have created today is huge and really apart from the government, we are the largest employer of labour and I believe that once we complete other projects, we will be neck to neck with government in terms of employment.”
Besides, the Dangote Company boss pointed that Nigeria is blessed with what it takes for a country to succeed economically because the potential for growth in Nigeria is phenomenon.
“The potential and opportunities for business are phenomenon and Nigeria has a huge population with enough skills, with huge quantity of arable land and water and lots of raw materials and mineral resources, so you have a market because of the population, you have the people to produce, you have a lot of minerals which you can develop for export.”
Giving a practical insight into how good to invest in Nigeria, Edwin explained that Dangote Flour Mills was initially designed to produce 250 tonnes per day and “by the time we started building up the plant, we decided to move up to 500 tonnes per day. We ended up finally with 7,000 per day capacity and others too expanded. Flour Mills of Nigeria expanded and so many other companies expanded too and within a short period of time, everybody could grow their capacity and they could still sell.
“The same scenario played out in cement sector. We were just importing about 7 million tonnes of cement and because of the high cost and non availability of cement, people were not consuming. Today, we have added 29 million metric tonnes to local production in Nigeria, Lafarge has added Lakatabu, UNICEM added too, and we are all still selling the cement. So there is a lot of surplus demand in any product”, he added.
The Dangote GED then made a passionate appeal to the private sector not to abandon everything for government to do to revive the economy, saying while government has a big role to play in formation of the right policy to encourage the investors, the business community has a bigger role to play by moving away from importation to production.

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