Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, said at the United Nations General Assembly in New York that he was praying for the global crude oil prices to remain low for a longer period to enable resource-rich countries to turn to other sectors to grow their economies.
Mr. Dangote was speaking with investors who participated in the high-level business leaders and international diplomats meeting organized by the Corporate Council for Africa at the headquarters of global law firm, Shearman and Sterling LLC.
Mr. Dangote and Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, discussed on Africa’s opportunities and challenges, underscored the ongoing movement to diversify African economies.
For Nigeria, reputed to be Africa’s largest economy, Mr. Dangote said his prayer was for oil prices to continue to remain low.
“This helps wean us off the dependency on revenues from petroleum. We must take oil to be the icing on the cake. We already have the cake – agriculture, agriculture, agriculture. Africa will become the food basket of the world,” he said.
Besides Nigeria’s vast mineral resources and gas, he stressed the need to manufacture more goods locally for domestic consumption.
He joined President Kagame to emphasize the need for heavy investments in education, particularly for young people to be well-trained for the jobs of tomorrow.
Although the Dangote Group president predicted that “five of the 12 million jobs needed in Africa soon must be created in Nigeria,” he said this would only be realized if they were trained.
Mr. Dangote’s business fortune, which comes from cement, sugar, and other household commodities, has expanded into fertilizer and other processed high-value goods.
“Technology, of course, helps us a lot and our factories are state of the art with the use of robotics but we shouldn’t be overly tech-oriented to create wealth,” he told the investors.
Often cited as one of the most inspiring business leaders in the world today and a model for young entrepreneurs, Mr. Dangote advised Americans who tend to rely on outdated news and wrong perceptions of Africa, “not to be lazy.”
“Go there (Africa) and find out the real story for yourself. Things have changed,” he said
He noted Rwanda’s success story, where he has business interests, as an example of the positive change, good governance and leadership; where corruption has been cured. Citing a personal experience of offering a $100 tip for services at the Kigali Airport to staff who refused to take money for work they were paid to do.
President Kagame was praised for delivering the environment for growth he promised. “There is nothing African about corruption,” the Rwandan president added.
The session was moderated by Rosa Whitaker, former US Trade Representative and author of the AGOA (African Growth Opportunity Act), whose business consultancy is credited for helping both African governments and US companies develop commerce.