If Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote’s gamble on a $10.5 billion, 650,000 barrels a day oil refinery that will be Africa’s biggest when it comes into operation in 2020, pays off, it could save Nigeria up to $12 billion on the importation of refined fuel, and grow his Dangote Group conglomerate to an energy giant with a projected revenue of $30 billion. It could also make Dangote, who is now worth $14.1 billion, one of the wealthiest industrialists in the world.
The refinery could make Nigeria—a net importer of fuel, despite copious crude-oil reserves—self-sufficient in petroleum products. Nigeria could also become Africa’s biggest producer of refined petroleum and gas products, ranging from plastics to fertilizer, as well as jet fuel, diesel and gasoline. That would create a variety of new industries, potentially lifting the economy of the entire region for decades to come.
Dangote wants to see other African businessmen follow his lead by investing in job-generating industries throughout the continent. Africa’s population, he notes, will double to 2.5 billion by 2050, and more than a billion young people will be looking for jobs. That could present a risk to the continent’s security. But Dangote believes if more investors shared his view of Africa—as a source of future consumers as well as labor—it could also be a chance to bring lasting prosperity for all.
He’s done his part, he says, by committing an additional $6 billion to $8 billion in Nigerian and African investments over the next two years. But it pains him that when he goes to international events like the World Economic Forum at Davos, Africans are poorly represented, and Africa is still seen as a risky investment. After all, he points out, he made most of his money in Nigeria.