Dangote to African governments: level the playing field

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Aliko Dangote, President and CEO of the Nigerian Dangote Group, says investments in infrastructure, education, health and agriculture are critical to solving Africa’s development challenges.  He also emphasized that African governments need to set the right policies.

As a leading investor in Africa’s private sector, Dangote reiterated his conviction that Africans have to take the lead in the continent’s emergence, and the need for the “understanding and support of the African Development Bank to move Africa to the next level.” “When Africans show belief, faith and confidence in Africa, foreigners will follow.”  He noted that for Africa to industrialize, it is important that foreign investments demonstrate practices and commitments that reflect accepted values.

Dangote was speaking at a panel discussion on 20 February in Tunis, during a two-day retreat of the African Development Bank (AfDB)’s Board of Directors, themed ‘Transformation through the Private Sector’ and at which he was the keynote speaker. 

Africa has been making quiet economic and social progress since the mid-1990s, with improvements being driven by growing political stability, better macroeconomic management, sweeping sector reforms, greater transparency and accountability, and increased respect for the rule of law. Investors are also now making long term commitments in countries and sectors they would hitherto not have considered.

Success stories abound across the continent and not just from large businesses but also from SMEs which, according to Dangote, deserve special mention because they provide critical support across the value chain.  To maximize the potential of Africa’s private sector, Dangote called upon “African governments to embrace global business standards, [including] transparency, stout political will, strong procurement rules and bold leadership --practices that demonstrate a level playing field for all economic actors.” He also counseled foreign investors that “for us, it is a matter of making sure that the practices associated with investments in Africa generate maximum benefits for these countries and their citizens.”

Touching on the constraints to movement of persons, he noted that “the visa issuance process for certain African countries is quite cumbersome, even when the applicant is a fellow African.”  He also noted that most foreign investors would need a visa to enter all 54 African countries. However, a non-African investor has a higher probability of obtaining a visa at entry than an African investor.  He therefore commended the recent initiative by Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya to start issuing a joint visa.

Similarly, on intra-African trade, which the AfDB and the African Union strongly promote, Dangote observed that some African countries continue to impose barriers hindering the importation of goods originating from neighboring African countries compared to those imported from non-African countries, or even impose taxes on such goods transiting through their territories. 

The AfDB, Africa’s leading development institution, is committed to driving Africa’s transformation in part through the private sector. Dangote commended the AfDB for its development efforts on the continent.