Africa’s foremost entrepreneur and business leader Alhaji Aliko Dangote issued an outline of a development agenda for Northern Nigeria April 4 at the Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit. While attention has focused on his criticism of the governors of the region, Nigeria should pay closer attention to the issues Dangote raised concerning both the content and direction of economic and social development as well as the leadership challenges facing a significant portion of Nigeria. Such attention has become imperative given the seeming inexorable descent into anomie in the region.
Dangote spoke as a son of the soil and socially responsible leader. He asked the governors to combat extreme poverty while calling for inclusive government and better governance of the region. He decried the weak contribution of the area to the Nigerian economy in absolute terms and about its physical size.
Dangote expressed his concerns while delivering a keynote address at the 4th edition of the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit (KADInvest 4.0).He noted that 60 per cent of northerners lived in extreme poverty, saying it was unacceptable for a people with vast arable land for agriculture to live in poverty.The billionaire urged the governors to wake up and pull the region out of its current economic woes.
Leaders are visionaries, managers and problem solvers. In speaking to the challenge of the North, Dangote defined a visionary path and identified how to solve its problems.
He said, “The North must focus on harnessing its massive agricultural potential in terms of both production and processing. No region with such high agricultural potential should be this poor.We have what it takes to turn around our fortunes, and I pray all the 19 governors of the northern states will wake up and follow the footsteps of the Kaduna State Government.Given the vast arable land and favorable condition, I think in the next tenyears, agriculture can generate more revenue and prosperity than oil that we have now if we have the right commitment.
Other tasks for the governors include identification of the comparative advantage of their states and generation and provision of data. They should then encourage local investors because they would, in turn, attract foreign investors. He had kind words for Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
Dangote stated, “Nigeria is ranked at 157th out of 189 countries on the human development index. While the overall socio-economic consideration in the country is a cause for concern, the regional indicators are very alarming. In the north-western and north-eastern parts of Nigeria, more than 60 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty.It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states, which account for over 54 per cent of the country’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass, collectively generated only 21 per cent of the total sub-national internally generated revenue in 2017.Northern Nigeria will continue to fall behind if the respective state governments do not move to close the development gap”.
Dangote also advocated for greater involvement of the private sector for its efficiencies as well as the ability to raise capital. He affirmed, “Closing the gap requires multi years investment, and the government will not be able to raise the necessary capital funding. Only the private sector can raise the capital to fund the level of investment that this country needs. Therefore, the government must create the conducive environment that will trigger a huge inflow of private capital into attractive sectors of the economy.”
For Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Aliko Dangote is a fitting example of a leader without title (LWT). He leads in practical terms with investments in the economy as well as in developing human and social capital. He is a strong pillar of the region.
Dangote Group is collaborating with Automobiles Peugeot of France and the Kaduna State Government to establish a vehicle assembly plant in Kaduna. Dangote Group is also exploring investment in dairy production in Kaduna State aside its investment in tomato processing and other value-added agricultural schemes in Kano and other states. Bayero University Kano commissioned in 2018 an N1.2b edifice housing the Dangote Business School. The school represents a significant investment in human capital development in the region.
Dangote’s clarion call is timely, necessary and critical. Crises roil Northern Nigeria. It ranges from security failures to defects in education, health, agriculture. Northern Nigeria is the laggard that pulls all indices of the country down.
Leaders of the North should spend time to digest Dangote’s message and set to work on new paths. What happens to the North is critical to the rest of Nigeria.