By Nawa Mutumweno – The $420 million Dangote Industries cement plant in Masaiti on the Zambian Copperbelt was commissioned by President Edgar Lungu on August 4, 2015 at a ceremony also attended by Nigerian vice president, Professor Yemi Onsibajo.
The plant was launched alongside a 30 megawatts coal-fired plant will produce 1.5 million metric tonnes of cement per annum. The Dangote Group is the largest ever investment into Zambia by a Nigerian company which translates to over K2 billion.
‘’This investment is expected to create at least 1 000 direct and 6 000 indirect jobs for Zambians when fully operational. Besides employment creation, the project is already greatly benefiting the local people of Masaiti and the surrounding districts through the transfer of skills, technology and business linkages,’’ he said.
H e observed that for years, Zambians have been subjected to high monopolistic pricing structure for cement but since Dangote came on the market, the prices of the commodity have dropped.
‘’This implies that the cost of construction is now becoming more reasonable and affordable by the majority of our people. This is what it should be,’’ he enthused.
The principles of the Patriotic Front (PF) government are to achieve pro-poor inclusive growth aimed at creating real wealth and jobs for the people, he explained.
Government, he added, also wants to rehabilitate and upgrade the country’s infrastructure and ultimately restore the pride and dignity of Zambians.
The President further said Government is exploring other avenues for road construction materials because the use of bitumen has proved to be expensive and yet roads deteriorate at a faster rate.
He directed the Road Development Agency (RDA) to conduct a study on the use of cement in road construction and to submit a report to his office in three months.
And Nigerian Vice-President, who was the international invited guest, paid tribute to President Lungu and the Government for being receptive to the Dangote investment.
‘’Mr. President, your foresight in approving this project and facilitating its establishment is commendable indeed and it exemplifies the kind of African leaders that our continent needs today. Leadership that fully understands that a private sector-led economy collaborates with a knowledgeable Government bureaucratic infrastructure is the way of the future,’’ Prof. Osinbajo said.
The spotlight falls deservedly on the exceptional African entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man.
‘’It is to his phenomenal vision, entrepreneurship and commitment to the emergence of Africa and African forces in world commerce that we owe this remarkable accomplishment: the Dangote cement plant in Zambia, he pointed out.
Meanwhile, President Lungu says it is heartening and encouraging for Africans to invest in their own continent as investment from outside is ‘’scary’’, adding that he is comfortable with investment from within Africa as it is dependable.
‘’We need more of African investment because investment from outside Africa is scary. And it is good that our African brother Dangote is investing in our country,’’ he said.
Investment into the continent by Africans signifies solidarity and brotherness.
‘’Assure other African countries that we need more of African investment because investors from outside Africa easily threaten to pull out their investment on trivial issues,’’ President Lungu elaborated.
And Professor Osinbajo said Nigeria is excited with Mr. Dangote’s investment in Zambia.
Prof. Osinbajo said Nigerian businessmen are able to invest in Zambia because the country has good laws.
‘’We are extremely happy and proud with this investment. Dangote’s investment is a great investment,’’ he said.
In another development, Dangote Group president, Aliko Damgote has pledged to invest $500 000 in an agriculture project tailored to support the growth of small-scale farmers in the country.
The firm will in due course launch 400 trucks, a move expected to create over 1 000 jobs.
‘’We shall assist small-scale farmers in the community by providing agricultural support. It is our hope that the project will bring development in the area and to support this, the company will put on the table $500 000 to start with.
Mr. Dangote said the choice of investing in Zambia is in line with the World Bank ranking of the country as one of the fastest growing economies.
The commissioning is also in line with the excellent trade relations Zambia and Nigeria have enjoyed over the years
He thanked Government for creating an enabling environment for the company to invest in Zambia.
‘’In due course, we will consider investing in other sectors of the economy as we believe it is the only way Africa can achieve the much-desired double digit growth rates,’’ he said
The firm has also pledged to construct a concrete road leading to the plant and assist surrounding communities in education and health sectors as part of corporate social responsibility.
‘’We have a robust CSR strategy in place and it will be of benefit to the community,’’ he assured.
Dangote plans to double investment in Zambia to around $900 million by building a second cement plant, the company’s vice president, Sani Dangote told reporters.
‘’It will be of the same capacity,’’ Dangote said without giving a time frame.