Grow your sugar, eat your cake

The Africa Report - - BUSINESSS - E.E.

LO­CAL BUSI­NESS PLAY­ERS ALSO SEE the po­ten­tial in Nige­ria’s agribusi­ness. Hav­ing made his for­tune as an im­porter of goods such as rice and ce­ment, Aliko Dan­gote is now a mag­nate at the head of an em­pire that is pro­duc­ing more and more on the con­ti­nent. Dan­gote Sugar Re­fin­ery is in­vest­ing in two big sugar projects: one worth $450m in Niger State and another worth $700m in Nasarawa State. The Nasarawa deal, signed in July, in­cludes plans for a 60,000ha plan­ta­tion and two fac­to­ries with the ca­pac­ity to pro­duce 430,000tn per an­num. In Au­gust Dan­gote signed with Niger State gov­ern­ment to build a 16,000ha farm that will op­er­ate on an out­grower ba­sis. Ab­dul­lahi Sule, act­ing group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for Dan­gote Sugar Re­fin­ery, told lo­cal me­dia in Oc­to­ber that there are many stum­bling blocks on the road for Nige­ria to meet its goal of sugar self-suf­fi­ciency. They in­clude dif­fi­culty in get­ting ac­cess to land and find­ing tal­ent in the lo­cal labour mar­ket. The com­pany has also made the point that gov­ern­ment needs to do its part to help farm­ers, say­ing the lack of good roads in ru­ral ar­eas is hold­ing back the devel­op­ment of agri­cul­tural mar­kets. In Septem­ber, at the Cor­po­rate Coun­cil for Africa con­fab in the US, Dan­gote quipped that the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment is a good one for in­vest­ments in long-term growth, such as in agribusi­ness: “We should pray that oil prices re­main low. We must take oil to be the ic­ing on the cake. We al­ready have the cake.”

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