By Francis Awowole-Browne

The renowned business magazine, The Economist, in one of its editions in 2000, described the African continent as a hopeless continent. In 2011, eleven years after, the same magazine reversed itself. The cover of its December edition of that year features an illustration of a boy flying a rainbow-coloured kite the shape of the continent, with the title, “Africa rising”

This sums up just a little of the transformation that is taking place in Africa. The story of Africa as a fast moving continent could only be better told by Africans themselves. With the perception of the West that Africa is a doomed continent, the developments within the content could certainly not be left in the hands of its traducers.

This is the main reason the pan-African conglomerate, Dangote Group, steps out to lead in the efforts at projecting the good things happening in Africa through partnership and sponsorship of Market Place Africa on the Cable News Network (CNN). Dangote Industries Limited has taken up the sponsorship of the Facetime segment of the show that offers a unique window into African business.

The programme which debuted September 19 will be featuring Dangote advertising campaign showcasing Dangote’s expansion drive across the continent. ‘Facetime’ is a high-profile segment within CNN Marketplace Africa, where each week a major player from the continent’s business community is interviewed. CNN Marketplace Africa is the destination for access to movers and shakers at the forefront of African business.

The show goes beyond the numbers to bring viewers the new business solutions and industry trends redefining African business. On-air content is complemented by distinctive online editorial at a CNN Marketplace Africa microsite, where popular and innovative content is shared across a range of social channels.

While announcing the deal, Antonio Canto, Vice President, Regional Ad Sales, EMEA, CNN International, said, “We are delighted that Dangote Industries Limited is working with CNN to promote its brand internationally in a TV sponsorship across all CNN International global feeds. The ‘Facetime’ segment in CNN Marketplace Africa is an important programming strand to be associated with because the content reflects the dynamic nature of African business. Dangote’s expansion, underpinned by this bespoke advertising campaign with CNN, is a brand-builder for African business as a whole.”

Explaining the motivating factor behind his group’s decision to sponsor the programme, President and Chief Executive of Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), Aliko Dangote, said his company was moved into undertaking to support the programme because there exists a lot of misconception about Africa. Besides, the lack of information on Africa is holding back foreign investment.

Said he: “Africa also offers one of the highest rates of return on investment in the world, a fact that discerning foreign investors have since acknowledged. Indeed, Africa has turned the corner and is now catching up with the rest of the world in the race for development. Dangote Industries Limited is delighted to sponsor the ‘Facetime’ segment in CNN’s Marketplace Africa because it tells compelling success stories about Africa. Such content can ultimately position Africa as an attractive investment destination and foster development that lift communities and nations into prosperity. This is Africa’s time.”

According to him, some investors still have stereotypical images of Africa etched on their minds. A new Africa is emerging from the ashes of her dark past, and is fast rising and is gaining accelerated speed, in all indices of human development. Many appear to have taken little notice of this silent revolution that is sweeping across Africa like a tornado. There is growing optimism everywhere about Africa, on a scale never before imagined.

“For instance, Rwanda, which was only two decades ago, devastated by war, is one of the success stories of this African renaissance. Rwanda is fast becoming Africa’s investors’ delight, and currently ranks 45th in the World Bank’s ease of doing business.

Similarly, the economy of Ethiopia, once a global metaphor for famine, has been growing at a double-digit for the past five years. This growth has attracted Ethiopians abroad, who are coming home with expertise and capital to develop their country currently ranked the 10th largest livestock producer in the world”.

Dangote said there is noticeable growth in the middle class, with increased purchasing power, across Africa. This has provided an incentive for fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) companies, which are scrambling to invest in Africa. The increase in population growth of Africa (currently estimated at 1billion), abundance of natural resources, and clement weather, also make Africa a viable proposition for investors.

“The Chinese, who have been smart to move in early enough, are reaping the fruits, especially in the construction industry, in which they possess considerable expertise. They are building factories, roads and railway lines across Africa. In the last eight years alone, foreign direct investment (FDI) has helped create 1.6 million new jobs in Africa. Capital investments are projected to reach $150billion in 2015,” he added.

Determined not to be outdone by the Chinese, Western companies are now taking more interest in Africa. General Electric (GE), the world’s largest infrastructure company, recently declared its intention to invest in Africa. African companies are not sitting back idly as they are behind a growing percentage of FDI, which has been going to sectors such as manufacturing and services, in recent years.

South African big retail shops like Shoprite, Massmart and Spar, and telecommunication company, MTN Group; Etisalat of the Middle East; and Airtel of India, have all gained a foothold in Nigeria, which has witnessed an unprecedented growth in number of subscriber base from 500,000 fixed lines in 2001 to 98.4 million as at October 2011. “This growth is the fastest anywhere in the world! African markets must re-position themselves to key into this economic revolution,” Dangote said.

In 2010, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) of the United States named 40 African Companies that have the potential to rival Fortune 500 Companies based on their size, geographical spread and turnover. Dangote Group is one of them. Dangote Cement Plc is also the only Nigerian Company on Forbes Global 2000 Companies.

In the last few years, we have invested close to $4 billion in various projects across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We are setting up new cement plants in eight African countries namely: Senegal, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Benin Republic. We are also developing import terminals in the following African countries: Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Benin Republic, Togo and Guinea (Conakry).

“All these projects, which are largely driven by huge deficit in local supply of cement in the countries listed, are at different stages of progress, and will be completed between 2012 and 2014. Our ultimate goal is to rank amongst the top eight cement producers in the world by 2014. Our aspiration to be the leading cement producer in Africa is a logical step after we have achieved domestic dominance and have become self-sufficient in cement production as a nation. In Nigeria, Dangote cement accounts for more than 60 percent of market share. We will start exporting cement to neighbouring countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote D Ívoire, as from this year,” Dangote pointed out.

“The key to doing business successfully in Africa lies in understanding the environment. There are peculiar challenges associated with doing business in Africa. Some of these challenges may include multiple taxations, low level of infrastructural development, and security issues. They are part of our reality. Western firms continue to invest in the oil and gas industry in crisis-prone countries of the world because they understand how to do business in such volatile environments.

“Corporate governance is increasingly receiving greater attention in Africa with initiatives such as the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, designed to curb corruption, and to promote accountability among African leaders. A new crop of African entrepreneurs have emerged and are changing the stereotypes about Africa and Africans. Some of them are on the prestigious Forbes list of global billionaires.”

The Dangote Group CEO maintained that the partnership with the CNN on marketplace Africa would go a long way into changing the perception about the economic status of Africa. “This is part of our own contribution to the rising Africa continent,” he explain.


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