Africa’s richest man and business magnate, Aliko Dangote, granted an interview in which he spoke about his $12 billion World biggest refinery project, his love life and his desire to buy his favorite football team, Arsenal.
Dangote, in an interview with David Pilling of Financial Times, said once he has built the $12 billion oil refineries in Lagos, he intends to treat himself to a small indulgence by buying Arsenal club. He said: “When we finish this project, for the first time in history Nigeria will be the largest exporter of petroleum products in Africa.” On his desire to buy Arsenal, he said: “I love Arsenal and I will definitely go for it. When I buy it, I have to bring it up to the expectations of our supporters.”
The 2,500 hectares oil refinery, when it gets up and running, will be the biggest oil refinery in the world. It will process 650,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of every drop Nigeria produces and approaching 1 percent of planetary production. Dangote, who is the 100th richest person in the world, according to Forbes, also spoke about his health. He said he tries to fast at least once a week. Africa’s richest man said: “It helps to clean your system.” When asked if his refineries would not make enemies for him as it is bound to affect the business of importing refined petroleum into Nigeria, he said: “You can’t just come and remove food from their table and think they’re just going to watch you do it.
“They will try all sorts of tricks. This is a very, very tough society. Only the toughest of the tough survive here.” On how he got the big break that transformed him from a wealthy man into a business colossus, Dangote said it was an idea from former president Olusegun Obasanjo to start a cement factory after the 1999 election. He said: “Obasanjo called me very early in the morning and said, ‘Can we meet today?’”
Dangote said he recalled Obasanjo invited him and asked why Nigeria couldn’t produce cement instead of importing. He added that he told the former president that it was more profitable to trade than to produce. Only if imports were restricted would it be worthwhile. Speaking on what the Nigerian economy needs to progress, Dangote said the country needs to stop importing and start producing locally. He said: “What Nigeria needs is to produce locally what we can produce locally. Nigeria still imports vegetable oil, which makes no sense. Nigeria still imports 4.9m tonnes of wheat, which does not make sense. Nigeria still imports 97 or 98 percent of the milk that we consume. “The government needs to bring out a draconian policy to stop people importing milk, just like they did with cement,” Dangote said when he’s not dealing with crises, he’s fending off friends and relatives, who are often seeking help. “People call me in the middle of the night to tell me about their problems. You try to be polite and reply but they come back to you with a longer email, not minding that there is a very, very busy person,” he says mournfully.
Dangote who is twice divorced and with three grown-up daughters said he’s on the lookout for a new bride. “I’m not getting younger. Sixty years is no joke, but it doesn’t make sense to go out and get somebody if you don’t have the time. Right now, things are really, really very busy, because we have the refinery, we have the petrochemicals, we have the fertilizer, we have the gas pipeline.”