Billionaire Aliko Dangote commissioned an expansion of his Obajana cement plant on Monday that raised its capacity to 10.25 million tonnes a year, creating what he called a "powerhouse of cement" in Africa and the world.
The additional 5.25 million tonne a year line at Obajana brings Dangote Cement, Nigeria’s biggest listed company, a step closer to its official target of producing 50 million tonnes of cement across Africa by 2015.
Dangote, ranked Africa’s richest man in Forbes’ 2012 list of World Billionaires, said the additional capacity at the plant in Kogi state, not far from the capital Abuja, raises his firm’s total production capacity in Nigeria to 28 million tonnes.
"We will be the powerhouse of cement in Africa," he said at a ceremony attended by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Dangote added that Obajana, now among the largest cement plants in the world, would receive another planned additional line, adding three million tonnes, that would boost its capacity to 13.25 million tonnes a year.
Under a plan underway to build a Pan-African cement empire stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, the businessman said the group’s increased expansion across Africa could see it achieving total capacity on the continent of 60 million tonnes by the end of 2014, beating the original target of 50 million tonnes.
Dangote Cement makes up around a third of Nigeria’s stock exchange. The company plans to list on the London stock exchange next year, although analysts say it faces big corporate governance challenges, including hiring a new board of directors, before it can be ready to do this.
The Nigerian entrepreneur has sunk $6.5 billion into his cement business in the past five years.
To many Nigerians, Dangote is an example of how their heavily oil-dependent West African country can succeed in manufacturing and processing goods, despite big challenges like massive electricity shortages that afflict the nation. "No country has achieved development by relying solely on the export of raw materials … we need manufacturing," Jonathan said in a speech at the ceremony.
Dangote said last month his diversified conglomerate, which is also involved in food production, will spend $7.5 billion over the next four years to expand operations in various sectors.