Opinion: Dangote Is Writing A Revolutionary New African Development Narrative

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote is one of Africa’s best known businessmen, the richest man in Africa, and an African hero, but he still may not be getting all the credit he deserves.

In a guest column in ThisDayLive, Ehiedu Iweriebor described Dangote as an African pioneer who is bringing about economic transformation and emancipation on the continent.

The Dangote Group has interests in commodities and operates in Nigeria and other countries including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Dangote’s interests in cement, sugar, tomato, refinery, fertilizer, petro chemical plants and others are often the largest in Africa. Being able to supply significant volumes of goods in demand in Nigeria and Africa will routinely yield massive profits to the group; but there are certainly non-economic underpinnings or motivations beyond profit making in this drive to self-sufficiency, Iweriebor said.

Dangote seems to be motivated by a patriotic and pan-African nationalist desire to promote industrial mass production, mass employment, prosperity, and freedom from dependency by adding value to African countries using African resources.

This is a strategy of practical African economic and psychological empowerment. In effect, Dangote is writing a new homegrown African development narrative and creating a strategy and template that is transformational and emancipatory.

In the period since independence, African countries have made strides in political, educational, cultural and social spheres. The social and physical landscape of Africa today is vastly different from what it was 50-60 years ago, Iweriebor said. It is arguable however, that African states have not made fundamental accomplishments in economic development and home-grown mass production, mass employment and prosperity.

Economic transformation and emancipation remains the main challenge to African countries.

Nationalist leaders and movements that struggled for independence were supposed to create the conditions for Africa to assume responsibility for its own development. Instead, disempowered African leaders willingly ceded the formulation of their development strategies to successor colonizers, according to Iweriebor . They accepted the ideology from colonial powers and the aspiring neo-colonial forces like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that pretended to have omniscience and expertise on economic development matters.

These neo-colonial forces needed African countries to maintain and expand the inherited colonial economic system, Iweriebor said. The idea was for African states to “develop” manufacturing through dependent assembly-plant industrialization and technology transfer from external sources. The results? Africa continued exporting raw materials, importing goods, and generating poverty and disempowerment.

In this context, Dangote and the Dangote Group have assumed the role of the practical and ideological vanguards of Africa’s economic transformation and emancipation.

In the process of implementing their vision, they have begun to generate developmental activities that are truly revolutionary and emancipatory, Iweriebor said.

By investing in various sectors of the Nigerian and African economies — especially in the cement industry — Dangote is implementing a strategy of development that is local and resource-based on African raw materials to produce goods used in Africa.

By his investment choices and patterns, Dangote has established a development strategy that has multiple developmental and transformational impacts. For example in all countries where Dangote cement plants have been established, local raw materials are exploited, mined and processed. These generate 1000 to 2000 jobs, transportation fleets for product distribution, repair and maintenance facilities, medium-scale cement distributors and small-scale retailers.

Investment funds run into hundreds of millions of dollars for construction of the plants, and generate tax revenues for the local and national governments in all the countries.

The developmental impacts of Dangote’s local, resource-based industrialization strategy contrast with the colonial and neo-colonial economic system that keeps Africa incapacitated, dependent, poor and disempowered, Iweriebor said.

Dangote’s national and pan-African investment strategy, on the other hand, contributes to African development capacitation, mass production, jobs, business opportunities and prosperity.