By Dipo Awojobi – The President, Dangote Industries, Aliko Dangote, has said his company should be able to generate about 12,000 megawatts of electricity for the country by 2018.
He also said that his business estate would start selling foreign exchange to the Central Bank of Nigeria by 2020.
Dangote, who spoke in Lagos on Monday at the Nigerian Economic Summit organised by Economist Events, an arm of The Economist of London, said, “We are looking at a situation that by 2020, we will be the one selling FX to the CBN. Our projects are mainly import substitution. We are working to be self-sufficient to grow about a million tonnes of rice over the next five years.
“Our gas project would have our gas pipelines on the seabed. The output should be able to provide about 12,000MW of power. We see a lot of transformation when we are done with most of our projects by 2018.
“We have 15 countries in the ECOWAS community that are duty-free. The export market is big and profitable if you have the capacity. Players in the manufacturing (sector) should be encouraged to export if they have the capacity. We must also meet local consumption.”
Dangote said the fall in crude oil price was not a curse and that the nation must use the opportunity to explore the potential in other sectors of the economy.
He said, “This is the right moment to pursue the diversification of the economy, which we have been talking about. I know that once oil gets back to $80 per barrel, we will go back to the same misbehaviour.
“But I think this is the right time for that. Government must come up with the right policy, because if we don’t do it now, we may not do it. But low prices do not mean doom. In 1998-1999, the price of oil was $9. What we need to do is just to block the leakages and pursue diversification.”
According to Dangote, the monthly revenue inflow from oil, which used to be $3.2bn, is now around $1bn, and this has caused a number of challenges for businesses in the country.
“There are some areas where we are facing serious challenges and there are some where we are not. It depends on your business model. If your business model is to import 100 per cent, definitely, you will be facing challenges, because the inflow of foreign exchange is not where it used to be a year and a half ago,” he added.
The Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, on his part, said a number of manufacturers were facing hard times due to their inability to access forex to buy raw materials.
According to him, there is a need to explore import substitution, while efforts are being made to boost forex supply in the country.
Wigwe said, “We have a lot of manufacturers who have to rely on forex for their raw materials but who are going through tough times. However, are there opportunities? I believe there are. I think it is time for us to move towards import-substitution. But I think we need to do things to support the supply side of forex and liberalise the market.
“Even for those who have to source their raw materials locally, there is a value chain effect. If the entire value chain in a production process is not sorted out, we will have a problem. So, access to foreign currencies for raw materials is important. However, it is important that people start looking at how to use local raw materials to produce.”
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, said the Federal Government was focusing on creating an enabling business environment to attract investment and fast-track industrialisation.
He noted that efforts were being made to give adequate support to Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises.
Enelamah said, “The key is to create the right incentive, regulation and policy so that people can work with them and do more locally than just importing. The other thing I should mention is that Nigeria has an industrial revolution plan developed by the last government, but the plan needs to be revisited.
“We need to look beyond the rhetorics and actually implement what we are talking about, because I believe that if we implement them, we will get better result.”
The minister added that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had made employment, local production and inclusive economy growth its top priorities.