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Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group, has called on African leaders and top entrepreneurs across the continent to work effectively together towards integrating their economies to enable free trade among its members to boost job opportunities.

Speaking at the launch of Afro-Champions Initiative recently, Dangote, urged the private sector in the continent to take the lead in reshaping Government policies and strategies in the continent.

Specifically, president of the Dangote group, and Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, who a co-chaired the African Champion Club urged top entrepreneurs in the continent to focus on job creation for their teeming unemployed youths as a way to ensure economic prosperity and poverty reduction in the continent.

Dangote said the Afrochampions initiative is for African businesses to cater to African needs to accelerate development in the continent and create more jobs to tackle unemployment of youths in the continent.

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He acknowledged that it is the first time that leaders from Africa’s multinational companies will meet, not to discuss their sector and ad-hoc investment opportunities, but to exchange views on Africa’s transformation and on what contributions they may have.

Noting that Africa’s young population and a growing labour force are valuable assets in an aging world, he said: “Africa’s current population of 1.2 billion (16 percent of the world’s population) is expected to grow to 3.8 billion by 2100 – accounting for 49 percent of the world population. By 2034, the working-age population is expected to hit 1.1 billion, larger than that of either China or India.”

He promised to work with his colleagues to make the club a unique platform on which; “W, as African business leaders, can overcome our differences and speak with one voice to foster reforms facilitating trade between our states with investments in strategic projects and synergies between our countries.”

“We do have to change the dynamics in a way that is more favourable to Africa and Africans because as Africa’s biggest multinationals, we owe a duty towards our communities, towards the next generation of young men and women who now want to become Pan-African entrepreneurs”.

Meanwhile, Dangote Group through Dangote Rice Limited, has launched a novel multi-million naira youth farming initiative that will engage teeming unemployed Nigerian graduates in rice farming in Kogi State.

This is even as the Company prepares to hit the market with One million metric tons of Dangote rice in 2018.

The Dangote Youth Rice Farm project, mainly an out-grower scheme for youths was flagged off at the Lower Niger River Basin Authority, Kampe, Ejiba in Yagba West local government area of the state where youth have embarked on rice cultivation over 100 hectares of land.

The rice farm project, which was preceded by a special training for the youth farmers on the dynamics of the rice farming, will see the youths cultivating the rice paddy on 100 hectares of land, which will then be bought over by the company for processing.

Under the scheme, the Dangote Rice Company provides the seedling, anti-pest-chemicals, and fertilizers while the Basin Authority provides the land.

The management of Dangote Rice led by Mr. Devakumar Edwin, Group Executive Director, flagged off the project while taking delivery of some rice paddy bags produced from the pilot project.

Mr. Edwin explained that the project is a new dimension to the efforts by the pan-African conglomerate, the Dangote Group, at ensuring food security and creating job opportunities in Nigeria especially for the youths, saying this Initiative is in line with the vision and commitment of Dangote Industries Limited to create a new generation of agri-preneur that will revolutionise the Nigerian agricultural sector.

“We believe skill, knowledge, enabling environment, collaboration and linkages along the value chain are driving forces for economic empowerment and social development in line with the Federal Government policies. This project will address the skills gap in local rice production among unemployed youths by providing technical, organisational and financial requirements.”

He said it would also enhance domestic rice production to cover the large gap between demand and domestic production and to increase self-sufficiency of Nigeria and substitute imported rice by quality Nigerian rice brands.

Mr. Edwin disclosed that most modern rice mills in Nigeria presently operate at not more than 20percent capacity utilization due mainly to lack of good quality paddy and that Dangote Rice aimed to change this situation developing and adapting out-grower schemes.

According to him, the Dangote Rice Company plans to set up a 150,000 metric tons integrated rice mill and offer for sale one million mt of par boiled rice by 2018.

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