- Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest businessman turned 59 on Sunday, April 10
- Dangote marked the day in Edo state where he commissioned a cement plant in Okpella, Etsako East local government area
- The plant is expected to create employment for youths in the country
Africa's richest man and chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote on Sunday, April 10, performed the ground breaking ceremony of what he said would be the largest cement plant on the African continent at Okpella, in Etsako East local government area of Edo state.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the over $1 billion 2-line six million metric tonnes capacity cement plant, coincided with the birthday anniversary of the business mogul.
Speaking at the ceremony which was witnessed by governors, ministers, federal and state lawmakers, captains of industries and many other dignitaries, Dangote disclosed that the plant when completed, will provide over 4,500 direct and about 25,000 indirect jobs and turn out well over 25 million metric tonnes of cement per annum.
He noted that the developmental challenges in Nigeria are quite enormous and will require the combined efforts of government and private sector to overcome them.
He said: "While others are sitting and waiting, the Dangote Group is already thinking ahead by investing in additional cement capacities in Okpella in Edo state, and Itori in Ogun state. We have also committed to invest in a 100MW power generation plant for both Itori and Okpella.
"Edo State is blessed with abundant mineral resources and I am aware that the overarching intent of the Edo state government under the leadership of comrade governor, is for the state to become a leading economic centre of Nigeria where the people live in dignity, powered by a government that is responsive to the needs of the people.
"This, I am told, has necessitated the plan by the state government to diversify the economy and reorient it from its dependence on government activity to an economy based on employment generation and value addition with private sector participation.
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"A key factor that drives investments in an economy is the presence of an investor-friendly business climate. Indeed, Edo State today, is one of the most attractive investment destinations in Nigeria.
"The economic reforms in Edo State especially in the area of tax, innovations in rural finance and investment on infrastructure, have produced an enabling environment that has further provided a platform for future growth. All these factors encouraged us to consider Edo State as the right destination for this investment.
"It is in the light of this that we are here to contribute our own quota to transform the economy of Edo State as we have done elsewhere.
This project is only one of our several successful projects presently ongoing in parts of the country and outside in more than 16 other locations in African countries, in line with our Pan African investment strategy.
"Last year June, we commissioned our cement plant in Ethiopia, and in August of same year in Zambia and Cameroon. We commissioned our plant in Tanzania in October. We plan to commission very soon, some of our other African plants in Senegal, Congo Brazzaville and South Africa.
"Also last year, in Lagos, we signed a deal valued at $4.34billion, with Sinoma International Engineering Company Limited, for the construction of 10 additional new cement plants across Africa, with one in Nepal in Asia.
"The combined capacity of these new projects will be 25 million metric tons per annum. By the time all these new projects are completed in the next few years, we will have a total capacity of 81 million metric tonnes per annum.
"This will make us one of the top six cement companies in the world. We are currently consolidating our cement businesses across Africa in order to reap the benefits of scale. As a matter of fact, our operational offshore cement plants have started to make substantial contributions to our Group revenue.
"In addition to manufacturing, we are also investing heavily in agriculture for massive employment generation. Recently, we have commenced multi-billion Naira rice projects in some states in the North and we recently flagged off a rice out-grower scheme, with the distribution of rice seedling to farmers in Jigawa state, to reduce our dependence on imported rice, create massive jobs for the people and provide good returns to the famers. We envisage producing one million tonnes of white rice under the cultivation of 150,000 hectares of land.
"This will lead to a conservation of part of the $11 billion presently spent on importation of food items that could otherwise be produced locally. It is gratifying to know that the federal government has recently announced that it is putting in place strategies that will make farmers have greater access to implements and other inputs.
With the federal government’s readiness to resuscitate the industrial sector with a promise to put in place strategies that will encourage industries to thrive, the private sector would have to be ready to take up the challenge and invest in critical sectors of the economy," Dangote said.
He added that with the effort of the present administration to revitalise the solid mineral sector, it is good that the government appreciates that a well-managed solid mineral industry is a path to economic and social growth of Nigeria, and that if well managed, the sector has the potential of providing employment and improving national income earnings to a level far exceeding the petroleum sector.
"I have no doubt within me that the present government is on the right path, judging by the new policies currently being put in place and implemented by our honourable minister of industry, trade and investment.
"By God’s grace we will all gather here again to commission this plant within the next 26 months. There is no doubt that the presence of the plant here will impact positively on the community, its people and the state. On completion, this project will create direct jobs of about 4,500 and about 45,000 indirect jobs.
"Nigeria is saving $3 billion annually for not importing cement because of the investment by local cement manufacturers. The additional investment in the sector will guarantee that we always meet local demand as well as surplus for export and foreign exchange generation.
"Anywhere we operate, there is a multiplier effect as job creation and more entrepreneurs will be created as ancillary services providers, suppliers, mechanics, hoteliers, restaurants, etc.
"By this investment, Dangote is increasing its production capacity thus maintaining its leadership in the industry. The Okpella 6 million capacity plant will take our local capacity to 35m mtpa, and with the coming on stream of the 6m mtpa Plant at Itori in Ogun State, our local capacity will go up further to 41m mtpa.
"By the time we complete this plant, our esteemed customers in this locality would have greater access to supplies and the new plant here will reduce the distance and time in delivery of products and our customers would continue to enjoy various incentives on purchases as we have been doing," he added.
Speaking earlier, Kayode Fayemi, the minister of solid mineral, disclosed that the federal government has concluded plans to meet with the 36 state governors to simplify access to land by investors in the mining industry.
Kayode who commended the Dangote Group for championing the federal government industrialisation policy, lamented that only 0.24 percent of the country's GDP comes from the mining industry, but anticipated that with continuous investment in that sector, Nigeria is expected to earn $25 billion per annum by the year 2025.
Also speaking at the event, Okechukwu Enelamah, the minister of trade, investment and industry, represented by the minister of state (investment), Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, noted that the groundbreaking ceremony marked another mile stone in the history of Dangote family.
"What we are witnessing today is a path to national development and peace," he said, urging the Dangote group to embark on constructive manufacturing and mentorship of the young ones to grow.
He also urged the Dangote Group and other investors to always honour agreements reached with their host communities in other to ensure safety of their investments.
In his speech, Governor Adams Oshiomhole noted that all the money invested by the state government on infrastructure in the past seven and half years, is a little less than what the group is investing in the Okpella cement plant.
"We recognise that the plant that is being set up, for which we are doing the groundbreaking today, is worth over $1 billion. It means that all the activities of Edo state government over the past seven and half years is just about the same value ad what we are about to commence today," he said.
Oshiomhole commended Dangote for choosing to be at work in a small village, on the very day of his 59th birthday anniversary, rather than closing the streets of Lagos and Kano in celebration of his birthday.
Earlier in his welcome address, the chairman of Etsako East local government area, Prince Suleman Afegbua, who lauded governor Oshiomhole for attracting the citing of the plant in Okpella, noted that the "establishment of a gargantuan cement plant in Okpella by Dangote, will not only make Nigeria self-reliant but a strong exporter of the products to other countries."
While promising the maximum cooperation of the people of Okpella for the project, Afegbua reminded the management of the cement plant not to forget it's social responsibilities to its host community.
"We are peace-loving and diligent people capable of protecting investments on our soil. It remains to add that Okpella is safe for your investments.
"However, I wish to appeal to the Dangote Group to engage Okpella community in term of corporate social responsibility through a transparent Community development agreement. To this end, our people are equally expecting job opportunities, provision of schools, water, power supply, hospitals and rural roads to compliment government effort," he said.