Tackling poverty, unemployment in Nigeria with tomatoes


KANO, Nigeria: It’s a situation that mirrors the giant oil industry, where Nigeria has abundant resources but has lacked the capacity, will or ability to exploit it, forcing a reliance on imports.

But Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is hoping to change tomato production with a giant factory that will boost domestic output, create jobs — and even, indirectly, fight Boko Haram.

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.