The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is being felt around the world, including right here in the United States. Consumers are already feeling the pain of rising gas prices and a volatile stock market. And a fertilizer shortage may soon result in a global food crisis. But a Nigerian mogul is looking to seize the moment, providing a solution to the problem that offers new economic opportunities for his country.
Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote opened a $2.5 billion fertilizer plant outside of Lagos, the country’s largest city, on March 22. The 1,235-acre factory can produce three million metric tons of fertilizer per year, making it the largest plant in Africa and the second-largest in the world. Dangote also plans to open an oil refinery that produces 650,000 barrels per day, later this year.
Russia is a key supplier of the soil nutrients that are important to corn, soy, rice and wheat crops around the world. According to Trade Data Monitor and Bloomberg’s Green Markets, Russia “accounted for almost one-fifth of 2021 fertilizer exports.” But after the country’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, western countries have laid down tough economic sanctions, which have interrupted Russia’s ability to ship fertilizer around the world. The resulting domino effect has led to record-high global fertilizer prices. That could cause food shortages as farmers have to consider using less fertilizer for their crops and scaling back on the amount of land they use for planting. In the United States, the cost of fertilizer is expected to increase 12% this year, after rising 17% in 2021, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As the world deals with the fertilizer crisis, countries are looking to Dangote to provide relief. He says the company already counts the United States, Brazil, and India as customers. “People are begging us to sell,” Dangote said. “We are very choosy who we sell this product to. The EU [is] trying to buy from us,” he added.
With a net worth of $14 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), Dangote is Africa’s richest person and the 80th-richest person in the world. He is the founder of Dangote Cement, the largest cement producer in Africa. This latest business venture is only going to add to his massive wealth. But the billionaire has no problem spreading his fortune around. The Dangote Group is the second-largest employer in Nigeria after the federal government.
In addition to helping to supply much-needed fertilizer to support farmers around the world, Dangote considers his plant another tremendous opportunity to provide sustainable jobs to people in his country. “We are lucky to have this plant,” Dangote told CNN. “This can help a lot of African countries. The export market is a seller’s market. The plant is creating huge opportunities in the area of job creation, warehousing, transport and logistics. This will create significant wealth, reduce poverty, and help in securing the future of our nation.”