Dangote pumps up African drive

Alhaji Aliko Dangote

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, plans to launch several new cement and sugar plants as well as mines across the continent, accelerating an expansion outside his Nigerian home market and shrugging off a downturn in Africa.

A slump in commodity prices, lower demand from China and investor flight from risky emerging markets has hit African economies and state budgets hard, raising borrowing costs and the prospect of instability.

But the Nigerian billionaire said his industrial empire would expand its cement production in several countries, betting on a future construction boom.

“We believe the future is mostly to do with infrastructure.

“There is such a deficit in infrastructure,” he said.

Last month his Dangote Cement said it had signed contracts worth $4.34bn with China’s Sinoma International Engineering to build plants and boost annual production by 25-million tonnes.

But now Nigeria’s biggest listed firm will add an extra $400m as some projects will be larger than initially planned. “It will be close to $4.8bn,” he said.

A cement plant in Cote d’Ivoire, for example, would produce 3-million tonnes, double the initial plan, he said.

Plants will be built in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia, according to the firm’s statement last month.

Another cement plant would be launched in the Democratic Republic of the Congo next year, Mr Dangote said.




Dangote could also acquire existing cement plants outside Nigeria if an opportunity came up, he said.

The financing would be a mix of company cash and debt, he said.

As a second step, Mr Dangote, whose conglomerate also has oil, gas, telecommunications and real estate interests, will expand its sugar business by launching production in Zambia, where he has a cement plant.

Zambia would be an ideal regional hub as it had borders with eight countries, he said. Dangote was also planning potash mining sites in the Congo and Ethiopia.

Nigeria’s most celebrated business magnate said restrictions by the central bank on hard currency transactions would encourage more agriculture production in Africa’s biggest economy, meaning that less would be imported in the long term.

In June, the bank, seeking to conserve its dollar reserves, said importers could no longer get hard currency from the interbank market to buy items including cement, rubber, soap and rice.