In the midst of a slow growth economy, underpinned by severe macroeconomic headwinds, consolidation and stability are the watchwords to maintain business agility and resilience for Olakunle Alake, Group Managing Director of Dangote Industries Limited.
The Dangote Group is one of Africa’s largest and most diversified business conglomerates, operating in twelve African countries across major sectors including cement, food and beverages, oil and gas, and logistics. The Group has been ambitious in driving self-reliance in Nigeria across the sectors it operates in, with cement being a prime example.
“Our biggest priority over the next three years is consolidation,” Alake says. “We have grown quite fast and expanded to twelve African countries, especially in cement which is the largest portion of our business. We aim to maximise capacity utilisation across the Group and develop our export capabilities in this area to serve markets in Cameroon, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
“Oil and gas is a new growth area for the Group, and our plan is to achieve stability in this sector over the next three years. We still have about a year or two to complete our major projects in this space.
“We believe that the completion of our fertiliser and refinery projects over the next two years will be game changers for the continent.”
Alake, whose experience with the Dangote Group has spanned over 28 years, believes that while there exists a massive opportunity in the Nigerian economy, the government’s actions need to be geared towards making Nigeria a more productive nation in order to boost the country’s growth prospects. “There appears to be a disconnect between the country’s fiscal and monetary policies,” he observes. ”This is causing a slowdown in growth in credit, manufacturing, agriculture and most other sectors. There is very little production taking place in the economy. The implication of this is that consumer purchasing power has diminished and unemployment remains high.”
For a large conglomerate like the Dangote Group, Alake sees these macroeconomic challenges and talent as the major threats to growth. “We aim to invest in ventures that utilise local inputs for production and reduce dependence on imports,” he notes. “Fiscal policies need to support that, not tax incentives only, but policies that ensure that businesses can grow and create jobs. Where these policies are not in place or are inconsistent, it will be difficult to attract the right kind of investments.
“The foreign exchange rate is another major concern. The stability that the Central Bank of Nigeria has been able to achieve is fragile because of uncertainties in oil price. If oil prices decline, then it is a major issue for rates. This will have an adverse effect on investor confidence and the cost of doing business.
“Talent is very critical, given our fast paced growth. We need to maintain the quality of our products in a very competitive environment. We need the right people to stay ahead of the curve, but finding the right skills is a challenge. It is a no-brainer that people are the future of the business and we are investing massively to find the right people and training those already working with us.”
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