How Zimbabwe wooed Africa’s richest man

Aliko Dangote lavishes praises on President Mugabe

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Africa’s richest man Mr Aliko Dangote has always wanted to visit Zimbabwe to scout investment opportunities and to meet President Mugabe, whom he reveres as a true pan-Africanist, it has been learnt.

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Aliko Dangote  lavishes praises on  President Mugabe

Finally here. . . Mr Dangote makes his first step into Zimbabwe

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The Nigerian billionaire accomplished both missions on August 31, 2015 when he was the President’s guest at State House where he laid the groundwork for major investments in coal mining, energy and cement manufacturing.

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After the meeting, both President Mugabe and Mr Dangote beamed, appearing pleased with their cordial interface.

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Businesswoman and TV host Ms Josey Mahachi, who facilitated Mr Dangote’s visit, said the tycoon spoke of his admiration for President Mugabe.

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“At their meeting at State House, Mr Dangote told President Mugabe that he had always wanted to meet and thank him for all he has done to make Africa a land for Africans.

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“This has always been Alhaji Dangote’s message: Africa for Africans. Mr Dangote also told the President that he adores him because he is the only African leader who can call the Western world’s bluff.”

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She added: “In addition, he revealed that on a number of occasions, he wanted to come to Zimbabwe, but nothing had materialised until I approached him and he accepted my invitation because of the passion I had shown.

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“He also said prior to his coming, he had spoken to former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who then sent his regards to President Mugabe. After the meeting, it was clear President Mugabe was very happy.”

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Ms Mahachi told The Sunday Mail how she tracked Mr Dangote over a year that involved flying to and around Nigeria more than 10 times.

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His visit remained secretive until he landed at Harare International Airport at 6am on August 31 with only 10 people, among them Ms Mahachi’s husband Mr Jide Agbeniyi, and a few relatives and Government officials, present to welcome him.

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“It was not easy at all.I had tried several times and my first encounter with him was in Ethiopia some time last year as he was commissioning a plant there. The meeting did not last long. However, what was important was that I had managed to meet him and put my request through to him.

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“I told him that I wanted him to come to Zimbabwe to see the business opportunities that exist here and he said he would look into.”

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Another round of pursuit followed.

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“I travelled between Zimbabwe and Nigeria, and around Nigeria more than 10 times. For example, there were times when I would arrive, say, in Lagos only to find out that he was in Abuja.

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‘‘It would then be a hassle for my team and I to catch up with him.”

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But her dream finally came true about four months ago.

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“I remember it was a Friday and his personal assistant called me to his Lagos office. We saw Mr Dangote after their Muslim Friday prayers and I was shocked to see him dressed in traditional attire as I had thought he always wore suits.

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“He then broke the news: ‘God has answered your prayers. Go and fix my visa. We are going to Zimbabwe!’ It was one of the happiest days of my life!”

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Mr Dangote is ranked 67 on the Forbes World’s Richest Men List, with a net worth of US$14,7 billion.

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He ventured into business in 1977 upon completing a Business Studies degree at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University.

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His early enterprises included cement, sugar and flour trading and afterwards he graduated to manufacturing, expanding across Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Liberia, Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Zambia.

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Mr Dangote’s other business interests include beverages, oil and gas, fertiliser, telecommunications and real estate. Recently, he raised a US$3,3 billion loan to build an oil refinery that is set to be Africa’s largest, at a cost of US$9,5 billion.

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His team is scheduled to arrive in Harare tomorrow to work out planned investments in cement manufacturing, power generation and coal mining.

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Mr Dangote told journalists in Harare: “We will bring in cement here and take coal, but we want to set up an integrated cement plant here. That actually may be bigger than all the plants that you have currently.

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“We will look at setting up something that will translate to about 1,5 million tonnes (of cement) per annum, so that when you continue to use cement, there will not be a shortage of cement. We will make cement available here.”

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He added, “On coal and cement, it’s Dangote Cement that will be investing. A week ago, Dangote Cement signed a contract with China’s Sinoma for US$4,3 billion. Even with that, it will only take us over 70 million tonnes (for the international market). The projection is that by 2020, it should be at 100 million tonnes, then Zimbabwe will be an addition to try to get that target.

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“The time frame for the investment is dependent on getting all the documentation, for instance, the mining licences.

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‘‘But if we get everything this year, we will start construction by the first quarter next year. We will move very fast, but that all depends on the Government.”

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