Agriculture is key to economic diversification, says Dangote
President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has stated that the diversification of Nigeria’s economy was long over due and that the economy could only be rejuvenated through agriculture.
Dangote Group emphasised this in a statement it issued last night following Federal Government’s description of Dangote Fertilizer and Petrochemical projects as ‘credible industrial efforts capable of reducing poverty’ by generating foreign exchange.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had, during a tour of the ongoing construction of the multi-billion naira Dangote Refinery on Saturday, said that the Dangote Fertilizer and Petrochemical projects were vital to the nation’s diversification efforts and capable of building up the nation’s foreign exchange. Osinbajo visited the projects at the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos in company of Ministers of Finance; Power, Works and Housing; Solid Minerals Development as well as Trade and Investments.
He maintained that agriculture was the way to go and that fertilizer was a critical component of the sector. “Nigeria has more arable land than China which now is the biggest economy in the world; we can tap into our vast land and produce what we need and even export the remaining,” Osinbajo said.
“By the time we complete this project, there will be opportunity to take on agriculture and say bye to poverty, because there will be jobs, no sector has more job potential than agriculture,” he said. He commended the business acumen of Aliko Dangote saying the projects remained the most important in the country and must be supported, as it would help the economy in no small measure.
Dangote described the project as an ambitious one, stressing that, when completed it, would give Nigeria a new economic direction in its search for diversification.
According to him, excess products will be exported to give Nigeria the much-needed foreign exchange.
He assured that the refinery would be ready in the first quarter of 2019. “ Mechanical completion will be end of 2018 but we will start producing in 2019,”he said.
Dangote said it would help the country save $5 billion spent on importation of refined products.The Refinery, Petrochemicals and fertilizer projects, according to him, represent the single largest stream in the world. “This site is the biggest in the world; the refinery is the biggest single refinery in the world, the petrochemicals is 13 times bigger than Eleme petrochemicals while the fertilizer plant will be 10 times bigger than former National Fertilizer Company,” he said.
He explained that the project with the $2 billion fertilizer unit was funded through loans, export credit agencies and owners’ equity.
On the forex situation and the purchase of dollar from the Central Bank, Dangote said the $161 million his companies bought from the central bank merely reflected the size of his business and did not represent preferential treatment.
“We have been badly affected like any other company,” he said, arguing that operational costs totaled $100 million each month due to recurring expenses such as purchase of parts for cement production and running a fleet of 9,000 trucks. “When you are talking about $20 billion worth of projects, what is $161 million? $161 million is what I need in just six weeks,” he said.