Africa Industrialisation Day: Dangote, Elumelu Cementing Fortunes Of Continental Growth

24th November 2017

On the occasion of United Nations Africa Industrialisation Day (AID), SAM DIALA, highlights the economic nightmare plaguing the low industrialised continent and how two prominent Nigerian entrepreneurs, Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu, stepped in to reverse the trend through investment and human capital development.

To rescue Africa from the plague of poverty and perennial backwardness, the United Nations General Assembly, by Resolution 44/237 of 1989, proclaimed November 20 “Africa Industrialisation Day” (AID). The annual observance was established within the framework of the Second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (1999-2000). The aim is to raise global awareness concerning acute economic challenges faced by Africa arising from lack of industrialisation and its consequences –  poverty and lack of human dignity.

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN agency which supervises the ‘project’ and plays the important role in co-ordinating events on or around the occasion, Africa Industrialization Day aims to stimulate the international community’s commitment to the urgent industrialisation need of Africa. It is a time when governments and other organizations in many African countries examine ways to stimulate Africa’s industrialisation process. It is also an occasion to draw worldwide media attention to the problems and challenges of industrialisation in Africa.

The Theme for the 2017 Africa Industrialisation Day is ‘African Industrial Development: A Pre-Condition for an Effective and Sustainable Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)’. According to UNIDO, the objective is to raise awareness of the importance of African industrial development in implementing a successful Continental Free Trade Area, and therefore further growing Africa’s economy and supporting the eradication of poverty. The event takes into consideration the role that industrialisation plays in enhancing market competitiveness, and elaborates on the necessary steps to be taken in order for African countries to realize their potential.

“The CTFA is an ambitious attempt at intraregional trade liberalization. Development-oriented regionalism can contribute to spearheading Africa’s achievement of Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations, the building of resilience to external financial and economic crises and the fostering of inclusive growth. It can have spillover benefits in terms of helping foster peace, security and political stability on the continent.”

Despite its endowment of abundance in human and natural resources, Africa remains the poorest and most underdeveloped continent in the world, traced largely to lack of industrialisation, poor infrastructure and bad governance. After centuries of colonisation and, later independence, Africa has remained at the realm of producing primary raw materials without the required value-added capacity to process and transform them into finished products that create wealth and enhance the people’s standard of living. This has worsened its condition which promotes conflicts, social mistrust, corruption and, in most cases, resort to embracing irrelevant mythologies and superstition. Without industrialisation, the continent will remain an AID-destination of donour groups of the West with its implications which include loss of dignity.

Virtually every human development indices works in the reverse order for the continent.  With over 1.2 billion people, or 16 per cent of the world’s population, African is the second most-populated continent. It has an area of 30.3 million square kilometres (22 per cent of the total and area of the Earth).

Endowed with such significantly huge resources, the continent currently accounts for less than two per cent of international trade and global manufacturing. Associated with underdeveloped infrastructure, climatic problems, high population growth, and very high AIDS rates, UNIDO observes that almost the whole Africa continent belongs to the Third World. Over 30 of the world’s 50 poorest countries are in Africa. The continent is now generally understood as one with relatively low level in terms of its economic, social and political development.

Enter Dangote, Elumelu

Africa’s economic survival hinges on industrialisation and human capital development. While industrialisation in Africa is gradually picking up and the awareness rapidly growing, the continent is significantly behind many other parts of the world because of huge deficit in infrastructure and quality human capital (appropriate skill). Industrialisation and skill play a big role in reducing unemployment, poverty and diseases.

Thousands of Africans perish in the Mediterranean Sea in a bid to cross over to Europe to escape poverty, hunger, conflict and diseases plaguing their home countries. They are desperate to seek refuge in Europe and other Western nations bouncing in wealth created by industrialisation. It is in this milieu of uncertainty that two prominent Nigerian entrepreneurs, Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu stepped out to terminate the nightmare of poverty created by lack of industrialisation and poor human capital. While Dangote took to manufacturing, Elumelu focused on human capital development (entrepreneurship).

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group, a pan-African conglomerate, has promoted industrialisation through his chains of manufacturing companies engaged in cement, sugar, salt, flour and semolina, pasta, noodles and production of poly items. The Group also engages in logistics, real estate and philanthropy. Headquartered in Lagos – Nigeria, the Group’s cement plants are located in nine other African countries, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire Ghana and  in  Nepal (Asia).

These factories account for nearly 100 million tonnes of cement churned out by the Group’s cement subsidiaries. “The Group’s core business focus is to provide local, value added products and services that meet the ‘basic needs’ of the populace. Through the construction and operation of large scale manufacturing facilities in Nigeria and across Africa, the Group is focused on building local manufacturing capacity to generate employment and provide goods for the people.”

Dangote is also investing massively in agriculture. The Group disclosed recently that it would invest $4.6 billion in the next five years, across Africa, in order to guarantee food security, produce local raw materials and engage in export. Last year, the Group commenced its Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme in Hadjia, Kafin-Haua local government of Jigawa state.  The scheme started with 20,000 hectares of rice cultivation, to be expanded to cover 800, 000 hectares over the next three years.

Aside the outgrowers aspect of the investment, the Group will plant approximately 150,000ha of long grain white rice and produce near one million tons of high quality par boiled white rice for sale into the Nigerian market.  This initiative will be duplicated across Africa. “Our internal policy within Dangote Rice Ltd is to procure 30% of our Rice production from local farmers who will be developed into outgrower groups.

These outgrowers will be simultaneously developed alongside our commercial farming operations”, Dangote said. Following continuous increase in its production capacity,  the Group exported  400,000 metric tons of cement in 2016 as it has generated over 100,000 jobs.

On his part, Tony Elumelu, through his philanthropic establishment, Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), has instituted the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP). It is a $100 million Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative aimed to build a crop of young entrepreneurs who will drive the continents industrialisation and technological development.

The Forum, launched in 2015, first hosted more than 1,300 participants from 54 African countries. Selected 1,000 beneficiaries gather in Nigeria annually for a two-day Boot Camp TEF. The third batch was hosted last month (October). Entrepreneurship during which they receive mentorship and training in entrepreneurship.  The initiative was born out of the Foundation’s $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs, over a decade, through the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.

According to TEF, the Forum is the most inclusive gathering of African entrepreneurs, where over 54 African countries represented will meet with business leaders, established entrepreneurs and policymakers to forge partnerships, share insights and fashion Africa-made solutions to accelerate the transformation of Africa. The found, Tony Elumelu, former Managing Director/CEO, United Bank for Africa (UBA), has been vocal about entrepreneurship as a means of solving skill and quality human capital deficit in Africa. He has consistently pushed for a private-sector driven turnaround of Africa, and is committed to his pet dream of empowering African entrepreneurs as a way of leading the continent out of poverty, disease and ignorance.

“The gathering is the culmination of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, our Founder’s $100 million commitment to identifying, training, mentoring and empowering 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years. “In empowering these emerging entrepreneurs, we are providing the capital, the networks, the training and support for them to drive economic and social transformation throughout Africa, providing solutilon to its problems as well as securing their future and that of generations to come.

“Africa’s development, which must be private-sector led and entrepreneurially driven, will have at its heart, young African innovators and their transformative ideas.  Only they will create the millions of jobs Africa needs. The Forum has brought together Africa’s most important developmental force, her young entrepreneurs who will become catalysts for Africa’s economic liberation.

“We have united the African entrepreneurship ecosystem, putting the entrepreneurs at centre stage. I want to thank those heads of government and other key policymakers, who have supported our firm belief that the private sector is the engine for growth and the private sector players, who are models of our philosophy of Africapitalism – the idea that business will drive change and that change must deliver economic and social wealth” Elumelu explained.

While the Africa Industrialisation Day draws global attention to the industrialisation need of the continent, experts believe that people of the continent has a huge role to play in turning around their situation. Kingsleys Muoghalu, former Deputy Governor (Financial System Stability), Central Bank of Nigeria, said on Channels Television Business Morning programme last week, that only massive venture capital, educational system, vocational skill and technology will pull Africa out of poverty.

 

This article first appeared in Leadership newspaper.

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