Workers in Lagos, Nigeria unload cement from Dangote Industries, Jnauary 29, 2021. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Africa’s richest man builds continent’s largest fertilizer plant in Nigeria, positioned to supply global shortage

3 mins read

As war threatens agriculture across the world, Nigerian industrial conglomerate titan Aliko Dangote takes action in Africa’s most populous country.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has had a host of implications, namely, food and oil shortages. Alone, Russia tops the list as the globe’s largest fertilizer producer and top five in oil exporters. Combined, the two are among the world’s largest exporters of key supplies, including wheat and important fertilizer components–urea, potash and phosphate. Since they are currently embroiled in tensions, neither can meet demand as their prices soar. 

With the conflict, inflation around the world has been recorded.  World leaders like President Biden fear imminent food security issues as the war wages on. “[The food shortage is] going to be real. The price of these sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia; it’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well,” remarked Biden

Others are trying a more practical approach. In Lagos, Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned Africa’s richest man to open the continent’s biggest urea and ammonia fertilizer plant. With the support of the country’s president, Aliko Dangote has built the $2.5 billion dollar facility on 1,235 acres. 

At the plant’s commissioning in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos, President Buhari expressed, “This new plant . . .  demonstrates . . . [Dangote’s]  commitment to the socio-economic development of our country and the well-being of our people.”

Ultimately, the ruler envisions the new plant gradually ending the country’s reliance on imports. In turn, he and Dangote believe it will also increase Nigerian autonomy and economic growth, which has been stifled by multiple structural issues including inadequate infrastructure and foreign trade capabilities. The hope is that food and job production will flourish for locals. If need be, for other African countries too, possibly the world. Thus, also making Nigeria, also called, the “Giant of Africa,” a bigger contender in global foreign export and exchange, citing potential in trade and transport along with logistics.

Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria, during the African Fellowship Programme with Young Global Leaders announcement at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2011 held in Cape Town, South Africa, 4-6 May 2011. Photo credit:  World Economic Forum/Photo Matthew Jordaan on Creative Commons.

Currently, the Nigerian  government reports unemployment at 33.3 percent. Meaning one out of every three citizens in Africa’s most populous country amidst a devastating reality once compounded with pandemic-era issues. To worsen matters, The Borgen Project claims nearly 4.5 million Nigerians in just three northeastern states–Borno, Adamawa and Yobe–are now at risk of hunger. Of those people, they claim over 700,000 are at imminent risk of fatal starvation. 

Added to accusations of an authoritative regime and possible media censorship, such good news and relief comes at an opportune moment for the government. Moreover, the fertilizer cultivated at Dangote Industries is a better option for growers. 

Carrying the mission to employ a “sustainable approach to improve soil and farm yields,” Dangote Industries has geared up to produce millions of metric tonnes of urea-based fertilizer.  “Nigeria will become [a major] net exporter of fertilisers,” Dangote projected. “It will drive productivity growth in Nigeria, prices will come down and the quality will also improve.”

According to studies by The University of Michigan, the world agricultural industry has switched from ammonium nitrate to the widely-used urea as fertilizer. The white crystalline solid in urea contains 46 percent nitrogen. With more nitrogen in the soil, the quicker sprouting plants grow. Thus, faster harvests and yields. 

Reportedly, urea-based substances can also help produce larger fruits and vegetables–ideal for feeding millions of people. Also with Dangote being the world’s second largest plant of its kind, forecasts anticipate a sizable installed 3.0 million metric tons of Urea per year capacity.

Moreover, this is not  Dangote’s  first investment. In 1978, the manufacturing mogul , who comes from Kano, a state in northern Nigeria, started Dangote Industries Limited to provide essential products and services like food or shelter to meet the basic needs of Sub-Saharan Africans. 

Now, his company continues that mission, even building businesses across different industries like cement. Of which, have had significant pay-offs for the west African nation. Today, the corporation is worth $211.36 billion. According to Forbes, its business magnate head is estimated to be worth $14 billion, making Dangote the wealthiest individual in Africa. 

To date, the powerhouse corporation is the country’s second largest labor employer, behind its federal government. To add, Dangote is due to open an oil refinery later this year.

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