Will Africa’s Richest Man ‘Make America Great Again’?
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the 60 year old Nigerian cement tycoon, has his eye on new investment prospects and is tempted by U.S. opportunities in renewable energy and petrochemicals.
“Let’s say that by 2025, I’m looking at (investing) between $20 billion and $50 billion outside Africa. Mind you, we don’t do small things,” said Dangote, who is worth $11.1 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Dangote Group will consider investments in Asia and Mexico, but will focus mainly on the U.S. and Europe, he said. “I think renewables is the way to go forward, and the future. We are looking at petrochemicals but can also invest in other companies.”
Over the last five years, Dangote diversified both geographically and into new industries. Dangote Cement Plc, which accounts for almost 80 percent of his wealth, has expanded into nine African countries aside from Nigeria. In 2015, he began building a 650,000 barrel-a-day refinery near Lagos, Nigeria’s main commercial hub, and he’s constructing gas pipelines to the city from Nigeria’s oil region with U.S. private equity firms Carlyle Group LP and Blackstone Group LP.
His refinery and pipelines are slated for completion in December 2019 – not soon enough for Oil Minister Ibe Kachikwu who has asked for an earlier date.
But pipelines and oil refineries, fought by U.S. green groups, have also dismayed Nigeria’s environmentalists. Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, head of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, calls investments in oil and gas short-sighted and overlook the transition worldwide from fossil fuel dependence to renewable sources of energy.
In Nigeria’s federal government budget of over US$53 million to buy generators and fuel, he pointed out, “there is no budget line for renewable energy. Nigeria is not thinking of energy transition and when we signal ‘leave the oil in the soil,’ we are talking about Nigeria beyond oil.”
“Although Nigerians may point to some of the infrastructure built from oil proceeds,” Ojo said, “the monumental damage done to the environment, the conflicts that have emanated from the communities and the political arena, as well as the killings in the country from the 1960s followed the do or die politics to ensure control of the oil.”
Meanwhile, expect investment dollars to flow from the U.S. to Nigeria. Profit margins there “are huge,” Dangote says.
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