President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has said billionaire and businessman, Aliko Dangote, may become the largest exporter of rice in the world by 2021.
Speaking at the Mo Ibrahim Forum in Morocco over the weekend, Adesina said Africa must focus on agriculture to drive growth and create jobs on the continent.
A press released from APO quoted Adesina saying: "I remember when I was minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. Aliko Dangote was there, and he was our biggest importer at the time, and he and I used to have all the time to dialogue," Adesina said.
"One day, I was in my office, about 10:0'clock, when Aliko walks in, Ngozi was minister of Finance. Aliko banged on my door and said 'minister I came to see you', and I said 'what are we going to disagree on this time?'
"He said no, I have actually looked at the policies, and the policies you put in place for import substitution are very right policies. So, I have changed my business model from being an importer to being a local producer." Adesina narrated the role Dangote played as his happiest day as a minister in Nigeria.
"I said what exactly are you going to do. He said I will put in $300 million into producing and processing rice in Nigeria. I said yippee! I went home, I told my wife, my best day as minister," he said.
"He comes back three months after that, he says I have changed my mind, I said 'what in the world happened?' He said no, I have changed my mind from $300 million to a billion dollars.
"If they continue that policy, he would probably be the single largest producer of rice in the world, in about four years. The reason why I was so excited about that is that agriculture is cool, agriculture is a business... agriculture pays."
It would be recalled that a tripartite agreement put together by Dangote Rice Limited to create jobs for 16,000 outgrower rice farmers in Sokoto was recently signed with the Sokoto State government and rice growers in the country after which he launched the rice outgrowers scheme in Sokoto.
Aliko Dangote, Chairman of Dangote Rice Limited, said he was moved to go into rice cultivation because of the genuine interest of the Federal Government to revive agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, and reduce importation of foods that could be produced locally.
He lamented that Nigeria consumes 6.5 metric tonnes of rice which cost the nation over 2 billion dollars annually, pointing out that it was heartening that the government now has policy direction that encouraged private sector's active participation in agriculture.