Nigerian industrialist Abdul Samad Rabiu believes there are attractive opportunities to export certain products from northern Nigeria to nearby landlocked countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.
Rabiu is the founder and CEO of BUA Group, a diversified group involved in industries such as cement, sugar, flour, real estate and construction.
Speaking during the Africa CEO Forum earlier this week, Rabiu highlighted the potential to sell cement produced at BUA’s plant in the northern state of Sokoto to Niger and Burkina Faso. He said Burkina Faso currently imports a lot of cement and clinker (an intermediary product used to make cement) from outside the continent. The cement is shipped to ports in Togo, Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire and transported to Burkina Faso on trucks.
The distance between Sokoto and Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou is roughly similar to the distance from Togo’s Lomé port to Ouagadougou. And, by buying from Nigeria, importers in Burkina Faso do not incur sea freight costs.
BUA Cement is increasing the production capacity of its Sokoto cement plant. According to Rabiu, much of the additional cement produced will be for the export market.
Rabiu described the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – which came into effect in January 2021 – as “one of the best things that could happen to African businesses”. The AfCFTA initiative has the lofty ambition of increasing intra-African trade from less than 20% to more than 30% in just a few years by attracting investment into manufacturing, agriculture and other sectors as well as building regional value chains. However, according to some commentators, the free trade initiative will take years to gain traction, given the scale of challenges on the ground that may undermine its progress and potential.