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Aliko Dangote speaks about how the Dangote oil refinery is revolutionising the industry and his succession plans

In the latest episode of Connecting Africa, CNN International’s Eleni Giokos sits down with founder, chairman, and CEO of the Dangote Group Aliko Dangote to see how the Dangote Oil Refinery is revolutionising Nigeria’s oil industry, bridging gaps in energy production, and spearheading the country’s transition to self-sufficiency.

Before the Dangote Refinery opened in 2023, Nigeria was forced to export oil to Europe to be refined and then re-import it back to the African continent. During the height of construction, the project was among Africa’s largest building sites. Devakumar Edwin, Vice President, Oil and Gas speaks about the construction, “At the peak we had 70,000 people working in the site. We bought 320 cranes, we invested in about 1,200 civil construction equipment, 1,050 trucks. And then we had to invest in 120 transit mixes, 80 concrete pumps, ready mix concrete batching plants and the world’s largest stone quarry to supply aggregate to this. So, we had to build in a lot of infrastructure.”

Mr Dangote welcomes Giokos to the refinery, a place he calls, “the eighth wonder of the world.” He talks about the importance of the project, “Significance of this refinery is that we will become self-sufficient in Nigeria and a lot of other, especially west and central African countries, will be also self-sufficient in products. So, the crude will not now leave the continent either from Nigeria or Angola. We will be able to take those crudes and be able to refine and distribute the products.”

When asked if there was any point at which he wanted to abandon the project, Mr Dangote replies, “There was actually no choice. It’s like we’re swimming across the ocean. So, if I stopped swimming, I would sink. We had to continue.” He continues, “I feel very proud as an African that we’ve been able to prove and demonstrate that it can be done and we’ve done it.”

Mr Dangote believes the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be beneficial for the continent. He tells Giokos, “The AfCFTA will be very, very beneficial and if you’re thinking about benefit, our company will almost be one of the top five in terms of benefiting from the free-trade agreement.”

However, Mr Dangote says he has yet to see an improvement in cross-border trade and wants more action on the AfCFTA, “We have petroleum projects to export. We have cement also to export. So, what makes sense is to have the free-trade agreement work. […] We have to make sure that all the regional markets they have to work. We have to remove these requirements of visas. We have to allow free movement of people, free movement of goods and services. Then the AfCFTA will work. Without that, it’s almost impossible.”

The petroleum production process also supports another vital sector, fertiliser. Urea is one of the most commonly used nitrogen-based fertilisers in the world made from the by-products of the oil and gas refining process.

Giokos visits the Dangote fertiliser plant near to the oil refinery where Adenike Fajemirokun, Group Executive Director at the Dangote Group, explains why the company branched out into the fertiliser market, “Fertiliser is a product that all African farmers, all farmers across the world need and use. When you look at Africa and the amount of arable land we have, agricultural land, the rains, the river networks that we also have, you can see the potential for food consumption. If you look at the core of what we stand for, self-reliance for not just our nation, but for the continent as a whole. So, food security is one of the top things on our agenda. So, it was a no-brainer.”

Although Mr Dangote has no plans for retirement, he tells Giokos that succession planning is on his agenda. His three daughters work for the company, making their own impacts on the success of the Dangote Group. Fatima Aliko-Dangote, Group Executive Director of Commercial Operations speaks about her outlook, “It’s continuing to build on what he has built over the past 40 years. We have seen how he’s inspiring business audacity in running this African organisation. I call this company Africa’s Finest, where he has taken Dangote Group to be Africa’s finest, to be one of the most diversified conglomerates on the continent.”

Mr Dangote talks about his daughters’ roles and the future of the company, “They will take some departments, but we have also other professionals. They will run the business to the next level. They’re actually going to be the future. They’re well trained. I’m sure they do much better than myself.”

He concludes, “We have a very good succession planning in the business where now we have myself. Then we divided the company now into two. We have myself as the group president. Then we have group president oil and gas, and we have the group president, other businesses. By the end of this year, we will have a group that will have 30 billion of revenue and that is big.”

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