The President, African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, says billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote, may become the largest exporter of rice in the world by 2021.
Speaking at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco over the weekend, Adesina said Africa must focus on agriculture to drive growth and create jobs on the continent.
He said, “I remember when I was Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. Aliko Dangote was there and he was our biggest importer at the time, and he and I used to have all the time to dialogue.
“One day, I was in my office, about 10am, Aliko walked in, Ngozi (Okonjo-Iweala) was Minister of Finance. Aliko bangs on my door and said, ‘Minister I came to see you’, and I said, ‘What are we going to disagree on this time?’
“He said, ‘No, I have actually looked at the policies, and the policies you put in place for import substitution are right policies. So, I have changed my business model from being an importer to being a local producer.’”
Adesina narrated the role Dangote played in his happiest day as a minister in Nigeria.
He added, “I said, ‘what exactly are you going to do?’ He (Dangote) said. ‘I would put in $300m into producing and processing rice in Nigeria. I said ‘yippee!’ I went home, I told my wife my best day as minister.
“He comes back three months after that, he says ‘I have changed my mind’, I said, ‘what in the world happened?’ He said, ‘no, I have changed my mind from $300m to $1bn.
“If they continue that policy, he will probably be the single largest producer of rice in the world in about four years. The reason why I was so excited about that is that agriculture is cool, agriculture is a business, agriculture pays.”
Adesina was named Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2013, while Dangote won the same award in 2014.
A tripartite agreement put together by the Dangote Rice Limited to create jobs for 16,000 out grower rice farmers in Sokoto was recently signed with the Sokoto State Government and rice growers in the country, after which Dangote launched the rice out growers’ scheme in Sokoto.
Dangote said he was moved to go into rice cultivation because of the genuine interest of the Federal Government in reviving agriculture as the mainstay of the economy and reduce importation of foods that could be produced locally.
He lamented that Nigeria was consuming 6.5 metric tonnes of rice annually, which was costing it over $2bn annually, pointing out that it was heartening that the government now had policy direction that encouraged private sector’s active participation in agriculture.