'Nigeria has no business in importing food'.

 
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Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman, BUA Group

BUA Group is playing a major role in reducing Nigeria's imports of goods and raw materials by producing them in the country, creating jobs and wealth in the process. Its founder and chairman explains how the company is helping to boost domestic production capacity.

When Nigeria's minister of industry, trade and investment, Niyi Adebayo, toured major sugar sites across the country last December, he was accompanied by two of the country's foremost private sector players: Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group and Abdulsamad Rabiu of the BUA Group.

These two industrialists, both born in Kano, in the northwest, have become the face of Nigeria's drive to lessen its import bill by investing in production facilities in sectors ranging from oil and gas to cement.

The minister was assessing progress in the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), which aims to make the country self-sufficient in sugar production by 2023, thereby saving the country some $56m in foreign exchange and turning it into a net exporter of the commodity. Since NSMP was implemented in 2013 around N57bn ($431m) has been invested in the sugar sector.

In Kwara State, in Nigeria's middle belt, the BUA Group is developing a sugar plantation and a new refinery that will have the capacity to process 14,000 tonnes of cane per day when it comes into production later this year. This will allow it to produce 200,000 tonnes of refined sugar, 20,00,000 litres of ethanol and 35 MW of electricity annually.

"The plant is made up of about 20,000 hectares and we have invested over $250m," Rabiu comments. "It is quite good; we will be creating over 10,000 jobs and we will be saving the country hundreds of millions of dollars just by producing sugar in our plantations. That should have happened a long time ago."

Supporting backward integration policy

Though the BUA Group was originally established in 1988 as a commodity trader--importing rice, edible oil, flour, iron and steel--the company moved into production to complement the government's "backward integration policy", which encourages manufacturers to source local raw materials rather than import foreign goods. Introduced for cement in 2003, the policy has often led to blanket import bans on foodstuffs like sugar, wheat flour, fish, milk, palm oil, pork, beef and poultry.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to block food importers' requests for foreign currency, a continuation...

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