Financial Times correspondent John Aglionby’s reporting in the fast FT online column that Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote “accuses ‘Bulldozer’ Tanzanian president of scaring away investors” appears to have caused an overblown row.
When Financial Times editor Lionel Barber asked Nigerian business leader Aliko Dangote in a live interview at the FT Africa Summit on Monday about his relationship with Tanzanian president John Magufuli, Dangote smiled and replied positively, “It’s okay. I can always call him; I have his mobile number, and he listens to me”.
Asked to comment on investment policies across Africa, Dangote, whose US$620M investment in a cement factory in Mtwara is among the largest in that country went on to say that Tanzania’s general policies “need to be looked at”.
Sharing his experience as one of Africa’s most prominent investors with operations in 17 countries, Dangote explained that policies scare away investors and that once an investor has left “it is very difficult to bring that investor back.”
Dangote was referring to Tanzania’s investment law concerning the extractive industries which requires foreign investors to yield 16% “free carried interests” to the government, although he did clarify that this was not applicable to cement.
Dangote pointed out that the policy could lead to others which could dilute control of assets in a country, a concern that is generally factored into corporate decisions on investing in foreign markets.
“Sometimes it is just a matter of communication”, Dangote said when describing how investors sort out contractual arrangements with foreign governments.
With regard to his US$620m investment in Tanzania he added “I’m sure we will engage them and try to resolve the issue.”
Tanzanian Investment Minister, Charles Mwijage responded immediately to charges reported in the Financial Times defending his government’s policies aimed at ensuring Tanzania’s benefits from the country’s resources and underscoring how accommodating the government has been in facilitating Dangote’s project in the country.
Investors at the one-day FT Africa Summit which hosted the live interview with Africa’s most prominent industrialist seemed to agree that Dangote had not “accused” the Tanzanian president, but had only warned that policies need to be clearly defined and investors need to be reassured that their investments are safe. “There was nothing at all in Mr. Dangote’s comments directed to President Magufuli,” one attendee remarked.