Africa's richest man plans refinery, plants worth $11.5b

LAGOS (AFP) - Africa's richest man announced plans on Wednesday to build a refinery as well as petrochemical and fertiliser plants worth some US$9 billion (S$11.5 billion), promising to reduce Nigeria's dependency on imported fuel.

The plans were announced by Dangote Industries Limited, headed by Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian businessman labeled Africa's richest man by Forbes.

According to a statement, the firm signed a loan deal with a consortium of local and international banks for US$3.3 billion "for the purpose of constructing the biggest petroleum oil refinery and petrochemical/fertiliser plants in Nigeria".

"The plants, which will cost a total of US$9 billion, will generate up to 9,500 direct and 25,000 indirect jobs, in addition to reducing current volumes of refined fuel imports by around 50 per cent and effectively stopping the importation of fertiliser," the statement said.

Construction of the plants in the country's southwest is expected to be complete in three to four years, a spokesman said.

The deal could eventually prove pivotal for Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, and other countries on the continent may also benefit.

"As a result, several African nations will be less reliant on importing fuel and fertiliser from foreign markets, reducing the negative impact of negotiating terms within increasingly turbulent international markets," Dangote said in the statement.

Despite its oil reserves, Nigeria imports most of its fuel because its four refineries function well below capacity, a situation widely blamed on corruption and mismanagement.

The Dangote refinery is expected to reach a capacity of 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, it said.

Dangote Group includes a wide range of interests, from cement to sugar and real estate.