Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, has established a tomato processing factory in Nigeria with a view to help tackle unemployment.
With this trend, Dangote is hoping to change tomato production with a giant factory that will boost domestic output, create jobs — and even, indirectly, fight Boko Haram.
TVC NEWS recalls that for the past five years, the Dangote Group conglomerate he heads has been working to build a $20-million (18.4-million-euro) tomato processing plant outside the northern city of Kano.
The city and state of the same name has been blighted by poverty and unemployment, seen as key drivers to radicalisation fuelling the Islamist insurgency in the wider north since 2009.
But it’s hoped the giant factory the size of 10 football pitches, set alongside 17,000 hectares (acres) of irrigated fields, will help by tapping a potential agricultural goldmine.
The country’s agriculture ministry puts annual current demand for tomato puree at 900,000 tonnes.
When the Dangote factory opens from next month it will provide 430,000 tonnes of paste that is used widely in Nigerian dishes from jollof rice to fiery soups.
“Nigeria is such a huge market for tomato paste that we will find quite challenging to satisfy,” the factory’s general manager, Abdulkarim Kaita, told AFP.
“Already local tomato paste packaging companies have placed orders with us which we will have to work hard to satisfy.
“We are set to begin operations. We are only waiting for the tomatoes which are ripening in the fields.”
Nigeria grows some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes every year, making it the 14th biggest producer in the world.
But it’s forced to rely on imports of tomato puree, mostly from China, because of a lack of processing plants.
Dangote’s factory, built by Switzerland-based Syngenta, will directly employ 120 people and 50,000 farmers have been engaged to grow the tomatoes required for the process of making concentrate.