Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest and most successful businessman has highlighted the importance of investing in the agriculture sector in a panel discussion on the ‘Inside Story of the Rise of Africa and Dubai’ at the 2nd Africa Global Business Forum at Dubai’s Atlantis hotel.

Hosted by British broadcast journalist Zeinab Badawi, and alongside HE Mohammed Al Shaibani, executive director of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, Dangote catalogued the meteoric rise of his family’s eponymous group through its focus on manufacturing, at a time when his compatriots focused their attention towards the country’s vast oil reserves.

Citing the problem of Africa’s illicit financial flows, Dangote supported HE Al Shaibani, who noted: “We had a good production of oil in the 1970’s, which was put to good use. The mind set of Dubai is you must invest in your own country, something which was key to putting the necessary infrastructure in place.”

Referring back to African reinvestment, and in a guarded criticism of the continent, Dangote said, “We Africans; if we don’t invest ourselves, then we cannot expect others to do so.”

Backing these words with action, the Dangote Group will be investing $16bn on the continent over the next five years, with an emphasis on the importance of expanding the agricultural sector.

“Nigeria’s population is expected to be 210 million by 2020. Not only is agriculture important in terms of food security, but it will help to generate a lot of jobs, particularly in the north of the country,” Dangote explained.

“The greatest power we have is land and water. Of course Africa has mining, but it doesn’t help to create as many jobs. Agriculture helps to get people gainfully employed.”

In spite of Nigeria being a country with 84 million hectares of arable land, bank lending to the agricultural sector in Nigeria currently represents as little as 4% of total business.

With the UAE importing approximately 80% of its food, HE Al Shaibani commented, “Having the right partner, particularly in Africa is a key thing when doing business. We’re looking to work further with Dangote.”

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