Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote wants to revolutionize tomato production in Nigeria, with a giant factory that will boost domestic output, create jobs, and even, indirectly, fight insurgency in Northern Nigeria.
Dangote Group have been working for five years to build a $20-million tomato processing plant outside the northern city of Kano, which has been blighted by poverty and unemployment.
When the giant factory is completed, it will equal the size of 10 football pitches, set alongside 17,000 hectares (acres) of irrigated fields, and will help by tapping a potential agricultural goldmine.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nigeria’s current annual demand for tomato puree is put at 900,000 tonnes, while the Dangote factory which is expected to open next month will provide 430,000 tonnes of paste that is used in preparing lots of Nigerian delicacies like Jollof rice and stew.
“Nigeria is such a huge market for tomato paste that we will find quite challenging to satisfy,” the factory’s general manager, Abdulkarim Kaita, told AFP.
“Already local tomato paste packaging companies have placed orders with us which we will have to work hard to satisfy.
“We are set to begin operations. We are only waiting for the tomatoes which are ripening in the fields.”
Nigeria grows some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes every year, making it the 14th biggest producer in the world.
But it’s forced to rely on imports of tomato puree, mostly from China, because of a lack of processing plants.
Dangote’s factory, built by Switzerland-based Syngenta, will directly employ 120 people and 50,000 farmers have been engaged to grow the tomatoes required for the process of making the concentrate.
This investment by Dangote is very significant for the country at a time where the Buhari administration is looking for means to grow the local industries and reduce importation to the bearest minimum. This can also help in reducing the level of foreign exchange, the country spends on importation of tomatoes from other countries.