Dangote: No Stopping the ‘Prodigal’ Son, By Zainab Suleiman Okino
Today, the Dangote Group is ubiquitous. Through his various products and rescue efforts, Dangote has endeared himself to all governments and households. No kitchen is complete without Dangote flour, sugar, salt, spaghetti, and in the coming days rice will be added to the line-up. No structure stands without Dangote cement and in a couple of years, every car in Nigeria will need Dangote fuel…
Nigeria’s transition to civil democratic rule in 1999 had far-reaching economic impacts. Democratic rule meant liberalisation of the political process and enhanced citizen participation in government by having the power of the vote, as well as the freedom of choice to associate and choose people into government. Political liberalisation inevitably leads to economic liberalisation. Therefore, Nigeria’s state-controlled economy would be transformed into a private sector-driven one. The privatisation, liberalisation and commercialisation of state-owned asset and businesses attracted massive influx of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into the Nigerian economy. However, this process was not without its flaws and shortcomings. Foreign portfolio investors and their local partners, with the active connivance of corrupt government officials, took over vital and lucrative asset that didn’t require much investment to yield dividends. This didn’t help the economy and the dream of revitalising the moribund state asset.
Out of the Nigerian neo-liberal economic thoroughfare emerged the Dangote Group, a wholly indigenous business concern that would in less than a decade become a leading player in the global economic sphere. The participation of the Dangote Group in transforming Nigeria’s economy from a command structure to a modern private sector-driven one, helped put Nigeria in the league of investor nations that is competing fairly in the global business sphere, with high ethical and operational standards in line with best international practices. The Group is not deterred by the difficult operating climate in Nigeria. Dangote Group stands out among major investors in Nigeria because its resources and energy are channelled towards productivity and manufacturing, an aspect of Nigeria’s economy that is extremely difficult due to acute shortage of power and energy supply. Most foreign investors shy away from the manufacturing sector and concentrate more in the services sector of the Nigerian economy. The coming of Dangote reversed this narrative.
Today, the Dangote Group is ubiquitous. Through his various products and rescue efforts, Dangote has endeared himself to all governments and households. No kitchen is complete without Dangote flour, sugar, salt, spaghetti, and in the coming days rice will be added to the line-up. No structure stands without Dangote cement and in a couple of years, every car in Nigeria will need Dangote fuel, as the Dangote Refinery in Lekki, Lagos is set to produce 650,000 barrel per day from the $9 billion project – about the biggest in the world. Dangote Cement Company is the sixth largest cement producer in the world, and while the average growth in the industry is 5.5 percent, it has a production capacity of 13.5 tonnes, and a target of 16 tonnes in the next few years.
One wonders how Dangote powers his industries considering the country’s abysmal 4,000 megawatt electricity. Except in a few cases, the Group generates its own electricity and is also poised to generate 550 megawatt for the refinery in Lekki. Diversifying manufacturing to other countries ensures the company maintains its lead in Africa, even when his home country, Nigeria is going through recession; but this (diversification) is even more helpful to the conglomerate, as it hopes to generate its own forex abroad, instead of relying on the CBN. It, therefore, behoves on the Nigerian government to apply its pre-eminent leadership position in Africa to support the Dangote Group in this direction. Companies that failed in the hands of other enterpreneurs were turned into goldmines by Dangote, starting with commodity trading and cement manufacturing, which were almost comatose before Dangote’s foray into the sectors.
Africa’s richest man, the 43rd richest in the world, is worth $12.8 billion, and hopes to hit a $80 billion mark by 2019. He has not just conquered the continent, he has demonstrated in many facets that businesses can thrive here, and diversification is a key business model. And considering the fact that he started at a very young age, selling sweets in school before he got a loan from his uncle for a start-up, Dangote has given vent to Business Lesson 101 to “start small and think big”. However, for him, it is not enough to make it big, for as long as your country is still poor, unemployment figure is high and 112 million citizens live in abject poverty – according to a recent report released by Oxfam International, it makes sense to seek new frontiers and investments that can help reduce unemployment to the barest minimum. Worried that the Togolese and Beninoise are taking over jobs in the construction sector, plans are in the offing to train 100,000 artisans every year to scale up Nigerians’ skills in this sector and provide employment. So, as the business titan told media chiefs at an interactive session recently in Lagos, it is no longer about making money or making success of his business empire—he has overreached his peak already—his passion is now about taking Nigeria out of the woods, reducing unemployment and putting Nigeria on a global pedestal to compete strongly. Surely, there is no stopping this ‘prodigal’ son of Africa, giving Nigeria a positive voice (for once) on the global business world.