Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote on the Africa opportunity (Video)

Dangote Group is one of Africa’s leading industrial conglomerates, with interests in everything from cement to food. Yet one of the most promising ventures, in the eyes of founder, president, and CEO Aliko Dangote, is to develop Nigeria’s natural-gas sector into an export industry. In this interview, with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, Dangote explains his plans for the Dangote Group’s oil refinery, his effort to build a company that will outlast him, and why now is the best time to invest in Africa. An extended and edited transcript of Dangote’s remarks follows.

Transforming the company: Aliko Dangote, Founder, CEO, and President, Dangote Group

Transforming the company

The big growth opportunities for Dangote Group are mainly on the south side of Africa. We are thinking about how we can take this business from where we are today—with a market cap of about $25 billion—to $100 billion by the year 2020.

Nigeria is very dependent on oil—38 percent of the country’s imports are petroleum products. So we’re asking, “How do we monetize our gas? How do we get gas to other countries?” We’ve looked at what kind of refinery we would need to meet all the domestic demand and also to export to the others in West Africa. The refinery, with an output of 650,000 barrels per day, will be the biggest petrochemical complex in the world in one single location. It will cost $12 billion to build, and will generate a turnover of $24 billion per year. The other businesses that we’re in include sugar, wheat, flour, pasta, and cement; cement is the only business that we do in 16 different countries in Africa. The next sector that we’re planning for is fertilizer—urea and ammonia. We are building two plants: we’ll use some, and some of it we’ll export. In all, we will be making an investment of $16 billion over the next three years.

This will totally transform the Dangote Group. When a country exports raw materials, it actually doesn’t make much money. So what we are trying to do is to change that mind-set: rather than being raw-materials exporters, we’ll now be goods exporters.

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Investing in Africa

Africa is the best-kept secret. It’s true, there are risks. But you have to consider how to mitigate the risks and move forward. Africa, as a whole, has been growing by 5.5 percent a year for the past 12 years. And it has been sustainable. This growth, when you look at it, really is without power. With power, we could have double-digit growth.1 In addition, there has been a lot of political transformation. Various governments in Africa are making life easier, much easier than before. Our government used to change the rules of the game almost on a monthly basis, or even on a daily basis. That’s not happening right now. So investors can actually see what they will get over the next ten years.

Our banks, also are not the same. They, unfortunately, have not reached where they’re supposed to be, but at least you can get some funding. For example, in 2005, they had only about $25 million of capital each; now it’s up to $250 million of capital.

So things change dramatically. My advice is that you better invest now, before it’s too late. The train is about to leave the station.

Read more: Dangote Group on the Africa opportunity | McKinsey & Company