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Africa’s richest man launches $20 billion refinery to revive Nigeria’s oil industry

<i>ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote partly financed the construction of the 650
Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote partly financed the construction of the 650

By Aisha Salaudeen and Nimi Princewill, CNN

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Nigeria on Monday commissioned the Dangote oil refinery — considered a ‘game-changer’ in ending the country’s fuel imports.

Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned the 650,000 barrels per day capacity refinery at the Lekki free trade zone area of the commercial hub Lagos, in an event attended by some West African heads of state.

Worth $20 billion the giant refinery built by the Dangote Group, which is owned by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, aims to produce up to 53 million liters of gasoline per day, as well as 4 million liters of diesel and 2 million liters of aviation jet fuel daily.

Speaking at the event, Dangote described the refinery as “the world’s largest single train refinery.”

The refinery is expected to solve some of Nigeria’s petroleum issues. Despite being an oil-producing nation and one of Africa’s largest oil producers, Nigeria lacks the capacity to refine its oil.

A large number of these products that exist in the West African country are imported from other nations like India, Belgium, UAE, and the Netherlands.

Between 2015 and 2019, the cost of importing refined petroleum products exceeded the exports by $58.5 billion, according to OPEC, a group of major oil producers.

Nigeria’s lack of refining capacity presents many challenges such as spending billions of dollars on imports yearly and exposure to disruption of domestic fuel supply.

The Dangote refinery is significant because it plans to solve these problems by doubling the country’s refining capacity, as well as increasing demand for fuel domestically and generating foreign exchange for the country through exports.

“There will be constant availability of high-quality fuels for our transportation sector, the refinery will also make available to our industries vital raw materials for a wide range of manufacturing,” said Dangote, who partly financed the construction of the refinery.

Around 50% of the funds used to build the refinery came from Dangote’s equity investment while the other half came from debt finance from banks such as Access and Zenith banks.

“We have built a refinery with a capacity to process 650,000 barrels per day in a single train — which is the largest in the world … We decided on a plant designed with state-of-the-art technology and a scale in a capacity that will be a game-changer in Africa and the global market,” Dangote added.

The refinery sits inside the Lekki Free Zone, a 16,500-hectare free trade area, the masterplan for which also contains a proposed airport, a start-up community, and commercial and residential areas.

Head of Nigeria’s Central Bank Godwin Emefiele said the refinery “is more than able to meet all of Nigeria’s domestic fuel consumption, given its processing capacity.”

Emefiele explained further that: “Nigeria can be self-sufficient in all products that we consume and at the same time export our excess output to the rest of the world.”

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Ado, who was also present at the event, described the Dangote refinery as a “spectacular project” which “makes West Africa better and stronger.”

The refinery size is seven times the size of Lagos’ Victoria Island, sitting on over 2000 hectares of land.

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