Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group of Companies

Why Nigeria’s economic diversification is elusive –Dangote

* Decries rhetoric on diversification, poor facilities to seaports

* Urges government’s attention to improved infrastructure, power, interest rates

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

With reference to the country’s relative slowness in really diversifying its economic base while generating opportunities for wealth creation for the citizenry of Africa’s largest economy, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group, has said Nigeria’s economic diversification programme has been largely elusive.

Alhaji Dangote, Africa’s richest man, stated that it is almost running late if Nigeria does not diversify now.

Agency report indicates Dangote disclosed this in Abuja, FCT, at the recent roundtable with Mr. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), with the theme, “Going for Growth 2.0.”

With regard to the obvious impact of the sudden drop in crude oil prices to about $30 per barrel at one fell swoop Monday, March 9, the foremost industrialist said the time to diversify is now.

Dangote further explained the economic impact of diversification and poor infrastructure, saying, “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,” he said.

“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”, he noted.

The President of Dangote Group emphasised that Nigeria has a significant advantage in manufacturing.

“Our import last year was almost $47billion, but 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,” he noted.

He added: “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 it.”

The business magnate, therefore, tasked participants at the round roundtable to come up with workable solutions.

Dangote also noted that the poor facilities leading to the seaports are economic drain as well as the impacting cost of doing businesses.

“We need to look at cost of doing business. Cost of doing business can affect businesses. Government lost so much money last year (2019) in the traffic logjams of Apapa (in Lagos State).

“Our three companies lost N30billion in profit. Which also means government will collect fewer taxes 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,” he said.

According to Dangote, “it’s not impossible to diversify. We need low interest rates, we have achieved to some extent; we need long term funds and we need CBN support to access forex for the import of machineries.

“My heart bled when I read that the Nigeria Customs collected N1.35trillion 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 FIRS that should.”

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