How important is the private sector in helping to achieve the Vision 20:2020 milestone and how achievable is this target?
It is a very ambitious plan, but I think with determination, especially from the government through the transformation agenda, a lot can be achieved. The transformation agenda focuses on private sector initiatives, and that is what is happening really. I think the private sector is key in this transformation and the realisation of the Vision 20:2020.
What steps should be taken in order to strengthen cooperation between the government and the private sector in key areas such as agriculture, energy and infrastructure?
Flour Mills has always believed that Nigeria is an agricultural country. Even when many multinationals moved away from agriculture, Flour Mills remained in this sector. It is important for the government to engage the private sector. If you do not engage properly with the government, you cannot achieve anything. We’ve been doing so on key issues and we think that we should achieve something for the country.
You plan to invest N150 billion ($950 million) in projects for your core business. What will Flour Mills’ investments mean for the company’s business?
We need to invest. We are diversified and we are the leaders when it comes to flour milling. We started flour milling 50 years ago and there are 22 mills in Nigeria today. It is important for us to keep moving.
We want to do a Golden Penny basket where our food products can be found. We will have rice, sugar and other products. We have a brand for semolina called Semovita. In Nigeria, everyone calls this product by the brand name; the brand has become the generic. Many people do not even know the name Flour Mills, but they recognise our brand Golden Penny.
We are engaging in agro-related industries, we believe that with the population we have in Nigeria, around 170 million with a 3 per cent growth, no other industry can provide such employment for this number of people. So you have to turn to agriculture – it is the key to feeding ourselves.
We can add cassava to our bread and maybe make a Nigerian type of bread. We can provide employment for young people in farms by producing cassava, but we want to be sure that the end product is commercially acceptable and that the consuming public will continue to purchase it; we want quality.
What strategies will Flour Mills implement in order to support the government’s agricultural policy and focus on agriculture? You are currently investing a lot in edible oils.
We’ve recently invested N7 billion. We know that we also have to grow palm trees. We are going to acquire land in Edo State to develop a big palm oil plantation.
We also went into pasta manufacturing many years back. That was my first job here; I realised we could make a lot of money in pasta and we moved to a new site. Today I think we have the biggest pasta plant in Africa with 500 tonnes per day, and we are going to double that. Pasta has been very successful; we have also gone into related business such as noodle manufacturing. It is coming along very well.
We have the fertiliser business and we supply almost 40 per cent of Nigerian requirements for fertiliser. Flour Mills’ products can be found everywhere. Transport and logistics are important as we have to move our products, but we also know that in order for us to succeed, infrastructure has to be addressed. I am happy that the government is focusing on this now, and money may come from the fuel subsidy removal, and it will be used for infrastructure.
Energy and electricity are very important as far as we are concerned. Everybody needs electricity, and you cannot start small and medium-scale businesses without it. But it is important that the government is also addressing these issues through deregulation and the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), which will lead to the private sector coming in.
Do you have a special message for the readers of the Financial Times Deutschland?
We have a lot of opportunities in Flour Mills. We started off with just one company, and we have diversified into all sorts of things – cement, fertiliser, port operations, noodles, rice, sugar, oils, etc.
We still need people to partner with us; we need investors to come so we can expand, for we always try to be the largest in the areas we go into. In order to be the largest we need money and a lot of funding.
Come and see what we are doing and look at areas that interest you. If you do business with Flour Mills, you can be sure that you are doing the right thing!