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From Vision to Reality – We Need Younger “Dangotes” in Africa

Kizito Okechukwu

Kizito Okechukwu | May 24, 2023

It is reported that over 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity. This makes the continent the least electrified in the world. Even though many more do have access, one could easily ask how many of these have access to reliable electricity.

In Nigeria, about 65% of homes have access to electricity, though not reliable, many have to rely on generators or other alternative means to survive. South Africa is also plagued by a critical shortage of electricity which has resulted in limited supply of electricity.


The news that Africa’s richest man and industrialist commissioned the continent’s – and possibly the world’s – largest refinery a few days ago in Nigeria is music to my ears. The refinery is set to produce 650,000 barrels a day with a potential to address Nigeria’s energy crisis. The businessman conceptualized and unveiled the plans for the refinery in 2013, but only started production in 2016 and then inaugurated it on 22nd May 2023.


From ‘Vision to Reality’, is what Aliko has shown us time and time again and that anything is possible. At 66 years old and with a net worth of USD13billion, Dangote did not really need to build a refinery to survive. But what the industrialist has shown us is his ability to identify opportunities and solve complex problems. Over the years, Nigeria, which is undoubtedly the largest crude oil producer in Africa, imports more than 80% of its refined petroleum products, which costs the country on average of USD11.3billion per year.


Many African countries are plagued by the same problem. They export their raw materials and then import them back for consumption, which ends up being a very costly exercise. It is not rocket science for countries to leverage their strength and build internal capacity to localize and support development of its industries, while creating much-needed jobs for our burgeoning youth population. The news that the plant had close to 30,000 people that supported its build programme over the years is tremendous. Imagine if each African country can do the same and build capacity to support what the country is good at producing, e.g. its natural mineral, energy resources, agro-processing and many more.


Another significant aspect of Dangote’s refinery is the power of the private and public sector collaboration. As my friend Michael Sudarkasa said, “we need visionary business leaders on the continent like Aliko Dangote, as well as political leaders who are not threatened or intimidated by the growth and development of someone with financial might. In fact, there’s a need for both dynamic private sector leaders and confident government leaders willing to work with a stronger private sector”.


It’s no surprise that China, South Korea and other nations have done this. They have played on their strength to catalyse their countries. African countries need to, and must do, the same.


Having personally met Aliko Dangote a few years ago, his humility, consistency and the ability to do difficult things should be an inspiration for young people, startups and small businesses that are striving to build for impact and develop their communities.


Just like Burna Boy sang in his 2019 Dangote song, “Dangote still dey find money, I no dey, I no dey sleep on the money, Who I be”?, which basically translates to that as much as Dangote has, he still goes out to hustle, who are we to sleep on the money or let the hustle go?


We can surely build a resilient, dynamic and a future Africa that takes care of its people! It’s in our hands.


Kizito is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane and co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.


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