Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has expressed the desire to invest about $9 billion in agriculture and plans to cultivate and develop farmlands and a food processing factory in Kebbi state.
This was disclosed by the state governor, Usman Saidu Dakingari, who said for such investment to take place the government has to provide an enabling environment as incentive to prospective investors who wish to take advantage of the huge agricultural potential of the state.
Dakingari said it was to encourage investment in the agro-allied potential of the state that prompted his administration to build the Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport in Birnin Kebbi for easy movement of businessmen who wish to invest in the state.
The Governor said for years Kebbi has been exporting onions to Morocco and other countries in Africa and the Middle East but farmers and farm produce buyers face hardship evacuating the produce from the state, adding that air freighting of farm produce direct from the state would create bigger market for farmers who will have the opportunity to choose the market that is most profitable and earn more for their efforts.
“Let me say this; Dangote’s company approached Kebbi state and expressed the desire to put an investment of about $9 billion, in sugar cane, rice and maybe ranching. I have seen such investment in Kenya and other places like Namibia.
Meat produced from these countries are processed and exported overseas to Europe. If people like Dangote come in and say this is possible; we have fruits, onions; we have one of the best markets for onion in Kebbi State. These days we produce watermelon too, we produce mangoes and all these are things that can go overseas,” Dakingari said.
He said the state has the clement weather to flowers for export and with the airport in the state, warehoused farm produce could be exported any time from the state to the countries where they are needed.
“At present there is a farmer just around the airport that has started warehousing; he will build warehouses for both export and import. These are things that will not happen in one day but the airport is futuristic. In the last two weeks, we started flying in and out of Kebbi, today the aircraft that we started with was full all the time and at times we had to leave passengers behind. So, by God’s grace, we are likely to improve and get a better aircraft and we are sure we will take 60 per cent of the passengers in Sokoto,” he said.
On how the Kebbi government was able to source the fund to build the airport, he said commitment and prudence are the factors that made the airport possible, adding that there is a plan to invite international carriers like Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Cargo to use the airport for their cargo operations.
“The cost of the project is within the range of about N17 billion and when we were building the airport I said it is futuristic, we want the best out of the airport and I also want a situation whereby we can lease it out. You just talked about states not having funds; maybe airlines like Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines can lease this kind of airport and make use of it for cargo and passenger operations. If you have regular flights no matter where you drop cargo or passengers they can connect to wherever they want to go to.
And with airlines like Emirates, I am sure they can make this place busy and connect even West Africa from here like Niger, Cotonue, Ivory Coast and other countries like Morocco, Libya, and Algeria are shorter from Kebbi State than any other place around here,” the Governor said.