As he has done in the cement industry, exporting the Nigerian business strength through the establishment of cement production plants in many African countries and exporting cement made in Nigeria, the indefatigable entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, has been silently thrusting into the Nigerian economy what could well be the first construction company from the country to play big on the global level.

When the federal government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) penultimate Saturday June 17, 2017 with AGDangote Construction Company Limited and Flour Mills Nigeria Plc to rebuild the Apapa port access road, the name that emerged as the contractor to execute the project was AG-Dangote Construction Company Limited (AGDCC).

To many Nigerians, the AGDANGOTE name sounded strange. But the Apapa road job isn’t actually AGDCC’s first effort at rebuilding roads in Nigeria. The initiative had come up in Aliko Dangote’s head as he pondered how he would extend his corporate social responsibility – which he had done extensively across the country in areas of cash and material donations, and in building of schools, hospitals, etc. – to affect the state of roads, especially in the communities that his companies are operating.

Moreover, Dangote has been unrelenting in educating Nigerians that building roads with asphalt is sort of analogue and that the cement technology in road construction is now the global practice. Building roads with cement, Dangote maintains, brings more strength and durability. As old habits die hard and Nigerian governments, companies and building clients seemed stuck on asphalt, the quickest and most convincing way to prove his point, the brilliant industrialist must have reasoned, would be to apply just the practical proof to his argument.

And so AG-Dangote Construction Company Limited was born. AG-DCC is a joint venture between Andrade Gutierrez (AG) of Brazil and Dangote Group Nigeria. And in just a few months after its creation, the company has been stamping its arrival on the construction business in Nigeria with the quality signature that the Dangote brand is known for, with commissioned jobs already in Kogi and Ogun states, even if they were his corporate social responsibility undertakings.

A year ago, June 8, 2016, the Dangote Group commissioned its first concrete road job in Nigeria, a 24km road which links Obajana, where a huge Dangote cement production plant is located, with the ancient town of Kabba, both in Kogi State.

The President of Dangote Group, so visibly excited at the commissioning, described it as “historic” because “the road is the first concrete road that we, at Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), will be formally commissioning in Nigeria.”

Dangote explained that his decision to start the campaign for concrete road in Nigeria was in line with what obtains in other parts of the world. “For instance”, he stated, “the Autobahn in Germany was constructed with concrete, and the famous Accra-Tema concrete road was possibly the first of its type in Africa. The equally popular Marine Drive in Mumbai, India, which was built in 1939, is another example of a concrete road. The Mumbai road is today still performing satisfactorily after almost 80 years in operation. As a matter of fact, it is expected that Mumbai saves about $3 million in maintenance cost every year from the investment in the construction of 450km of concrete roads.”

The visionary businessman added, “That is just one city alone. Imagine how it would be like if such savings are made annually in a mega city like Lagos! Such savings can be channelled into other projects that will benefit Lagosians. Austria, USA, Canada, China, Kenya and South Africa are some of the other countries that have introduced concrete in the construction of major highways.

“You will all agree with me that one of the major infrastructural challenges that we face in Nigeria today is lack of good quality roads. Indeed, most of our highways are today in a very deplorable condition due to lack of proper maintenance. That is why travellers on our inter-state routes often spend longer hours on the roads than they should. Obviously, this calls for a review of our existing method of building roads in Nigeria. Roads play an important role in the social and economic development of any nation. The Nigerian cement industry, as our contribution to finding a cost-effective and lasting solution to this problem, has been advocating the construction of concrete roads as a more viable alternative to asphalt roads.

“Another advantage of concrete roads is that cement, the basic raw material for construction, is available locally, and it is cheaper to use in the long run than bitumen, a petroleumbased product that is presently imported. As a matter of fact, in Nigeria, economic losses due to poor condition of our roads are estimated at about $1bn annually. I believe that the introduction of concrete roads will enable the government to find a lasting solution to the poor road network in the country and also reduce the burden of constantly sourcing for funds to repair roads.”

Dangote has also taken his campaign to Benin City, the Edo State capital, where undertook to construct Navis Street. Speaking through the General Manager (Commercial), of the AG DCC, Stanley Okocha, at the flag-off of construction of the street using concrete technology, Dangote promised to deliver high quality concrete roads in the state.

Navis Street, linking Forestry road and Lagos Street, has also been a beneficiary of Dangote’s take-off to what would likely soon be global prominence in the construction business. The street had been thoroughly destroyed by flood. But Dangote took it upon himself to repair it as a CSR and a pilot scheme to showcase his concrete road technology capability.

Okocha noted that the concept of the concrete technology was to build micro and rural roads across the country. Again, it would be providing jobs for Nigerians everywhere it is done.

“We want to prove to the world that it is durable. We want to prove that it is cheaper and will be effective in Nigeria. Concrete can last for as many as 30 to 50 years, while asphalt has a less lifespan,” he said.

The lawmaker representing Oredo East at the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Osaigbovo Iyoha, was particularly joyous at Dangote’s offer, lauding, at the site to inspect the work, the construction company for the training of youths in the area in its workforce and affirming it would go a long way to curb the unemployment in the state.

“They are training our people. They have about 50 workers on ground. Twenty are from around this area, while 30 are from across the state. I see a better Edo and I believe that, very soon, we will meet the challenges of unemployment,” Iyoha said.

Dangote has also utilised the concrete road technology to impact the Ibeshe community in Ogun State with the rebuilding of the 24km ItoriIbeshe road. At the commissioning of the road last year, the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who did the commissioning couldn’t hide his delight at Dangote’s gesture to build the road.

At the signing of the reconstruction deal of the Apapa-Wharf, it was revealed that AG-DCC would be utilising concrete slabs as against asphalt that is common with road construction in this part of the world to deliver the dual carriage highway.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive of AG Dangote, Ashif Jumar, had said, “We are building a fourkilometre concrete dual carriage road that has a life span of over 40 years. It is a rigid pavement road of 250 millimeters thickness with solid underlying materials. We have already mobilized to site, but our major challenge is the chaotic Apapa traffic and the inclement rainy season. I appeal for patience and cooperation.”

At the occasion, the Honorary Adviser to the President/Chief Executive of Dangote Group, Engineer Joseph Makoju, described the road reconstruction as a higher form of corporate social responsibility as Dangote Group was not asking for tax rebates. According to him, businesses needed to engage with host communities through corporate social responsibility projects to ensure sustainability.

He said, “Here at Dangote, we have built houses, new towns, hospitals, schools, roads and markets, and awarded scholarships in the communities where we have our operations. But this is a higher form of corporate social responsibility. This project is a higher form of intervention on a national level, intervening in provision of critical infrastructure.”

Knowing that Aliko Dangote’s doesn’t accomplish in half-measures, knowing him for the far-sighted industrialist and patriot that he is, AGDangote Construction Company is just beginning to emerge to give the Julius Bergers and G. Cappas in Nigeria a run for their money. Dangote will already be looking beyond Nigeria to make AGDCC the global construction company to come out of this country.

by Temitayo Odunlami.

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