Building Refinery: Aliko Dangote Reveals He Was Warned

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Nigerian businessman, industrialist, and CEO of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has revealed that he was warned against embarking on his ambitious refinery project. In an interview posted on the Business Elites Africa X handle, Dangote shared his decision to move forward with the project despite the warnings, believing they were attempts to discourage him.
The 67-year-old billionaire admitted that if he had known the challenges he would face in constructing the refinery, he might have reconsidered. “If I’m going to do this now, I’m going to do it better because I’ve learned from experience,” Dangote said. “But if I knew what I was going to go through, I wouldn’t have tried it. People warned me about going into this, but I thought they were only trying to discourage me.”
Dangote also highlighted the difficulties other African countries have faced in building refineries, noting that there has not been a new refinery on the continent in the last 35 years. He cited financial constraints, lack of political will, and opposition from those benefiting from importing petroleum products as major obstacles. “They (the governments) won’t get the loans anyway because they don’t have strong banks; the international banks would not support anything like this.”
On the topic of industrializing Africa and creating a more connected continent, Dangote expressed his belief that Africans themselves must take the initiative. “If Africans are waiting for foreign investors to come and develop Africa, it will never happen,” he stated.
Dangote first unveiled plans for the refinery in September 2013, announcing he had secured about $3.3 billion in financing. At that time, the project was estimated to cost around $9 billion, with $3 billion invested by the Dangote Group and the remainder via commercial loans. The initial plan was to begin production in 2016. However, after relocating the project to Lekki, construction did not commence until 2016 with excavation and infrastructure preparation, delaying completion to late 2018.
The refinery was finally commissioned in May 2023 under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari. It is expected to enable Nigeria to achieve self-sufficiency in refined products and generate a surplus for export.
Dangote’s insights reflect his determination and vision for transforming Nigeria’s industrial landscape, despite the considerable challenges he faced. His perseverance serves as an inspiration for the entire continent, emphasizing the importance of self-reliance and proactive development.

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