Photograph — Bloomberg

After seeing a 41 percent fall in exports from Nigeria last year, the chief executive of Dangote Cement has said the company plans to commence exportation from its Congo Republic plants to neighbouring states.

Exports to West and Central Africa dropped to 0.5 million tonnes in 2019, from 0.7 million tonnes in both 2018 and 2017 due to the land border closure by the government, said Joseph Makoju, who is set to be replaced by ex-head of Lafarge Africa Michel Puchercos as Dangote’s new chief executive.

The cement maker also recorded flat total production volumes at 14.1 million tonnes while higher discounts, marketing and haulage cost caused core profit to fall 9.1 percent and margins slid 59.2 percent. “We undoubtedly faced several challenges last year,” Makoju was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Dangote now plans to start exporting clinker, the main raw material used to make cement, from Congo this year while it will look to promote its Nigerian production more heavily to support growth. “We are very optimistic about the market in 2020 and we expect to see some increase especially for infrastructure project,” Majoku added.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari last August shut the country’s land borders with both Benin and Niger in a bid to end rampant smuggling activities across the frontiers, which he blamed on the supposed failure of both trade partners to guard their borders properly.

Several businesses, including cement exports, across Nigeria and its neighbouring countries have been hit hard by the blockade, as consumers face stoked inflation in the prices of basic food items such as rice, frozen foods.

Experts had predicted a slowdown in the economy this year if the borders remained closed. Considering the plunge in oil global crude prices triggered by the coronavirus outbreak, that would be catastrophic for the oil-dependent economy that has been stuck with low growth since the 2016 recession.

Meanwhile, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier this month said they would find what they described as “realistic solutions” in the “short term” to the ongoing unilateral move by Nigeria.

Dangote Cement (DANGCEM), Nigeria’s biggest listed company, will carry out a share buy-back programme this year after securing regulatory approval while an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange is being “actively considered,” the company said. Its share price on the Nigerian bourse was quoted at ₦170 naira on Thursday, more than 40 percent drop from its peak of ₦286 in 2018.

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