Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, yesterday gave a poignant verdict on efforts by successive governments to transform the nation’s economy, saying that Nigeria’s economy is not working.
According to him, Nigeria’s economic diversification programme has been largely sluggish and elusive, warning that the risks are huge if Nigeria fails to fast-track the diversification of her economy.
Dangote, who spoke yesterday at a Roundtable parley with the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, with the theme “Going for Growth 2.0.” said: “My heart bled when I read that Nigerian Customs collected N1.35trn import duties last year. It means the economy isn’t working. If the economy is working, the Customs shouldn’t collect that much money, it is the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) that should.”
He identified agriculture and manufacturing sectors as the hub round which the nation’s economic diversification should be hinged to achieve the goal of sustainable national development.
Dangote clarified: “We can diversify the economy through agriculture and manufacturing. Manufacturing creates a lot of jobs, creates middle class and transforms families. These are the areas we need to focus on. But how do you diversify into manufacturing and make it an inclusive growth? You need to do more of backward integration or import substitution.
“Our economy is great because we have a local market. The economy of Asia is focused on exports. But we have a domestic market with our about 200 million population apart from the ECOWAS market.
“Our import last year was almost $47bn. It is not sustainable. We cannot have 200 million people, growing at an average 2.7 percent and we are importing most of the things we consume.”
According to him, “we need to be more serious so we don’t keep talking about diversification. It has been very elusive. I don’t know why. It is possible but people are not focusing on” he said.
Noting that Nigeria has significant advantages in manufacturing, the Africa’s richest man advised that talks during the Roundtable should generate workable solutions to the nation’s industrial challenges.
Dangote also lamented that the poor facilities leading to the seaports remained economic drain as it continued to impacting cost of doing businesses, adding that the government should look into the cost of doing business in view of the implications for investments and the nation’s GDP.
He said: “Government lost so much money last year in the traffic logjams of Apapa. Our three companies lost N30bn in profit. Which also means government will collect less tax from us. So, we need to look at infrastructure, we need to look at power because without power there won’t be growth. That is what will propel MSMEs to grow and be everywhere and spur manufacturing.”
“It’s not impossible to diversify. We need low interest rate, we have achieved to some extent, we need long term funds and we need CBN support to access forex for the import of machineries” he noted.
He used the opportunity to speak on some of his investments that would have significant impact on Nigeria’s forex.
He said because of his investments in cement production, “Nigeria by this year will be the highest exporter of cement in Africa. We are building 10 rice factories which by this year we will produce one million tons of rice” he said.
On petroleum, he said once his petrochemical plant starts producing this year, Nigeria will be largest exporter of petroleum products in Africa.
He also said, for the first time, Nigeria will be the largest exporter of fertilisers in sub-Saharan Africa, linking the feat to backward integration policy of his group.