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Dangote Cement Factory Construction Resumed 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

A land ownership wranglewhich culminated in the interruption of works to erect a Dangote Cement Plc factory in Cameroon’s port city Douala has ostensibly been sorted out.  Since Friday, June 8, heavy duty machines are again rumbling on the project site on the banks of the R. Wouri.

Dangote Cement factory in Nigeria

Local tribal chiefs claiming sacrilege successfully lobbied the government to order a suspension of the venture last February, demanding its delocalization from the “sacred site” of the Ngondo, the traditional annual assembly venue of the indigenous coastal Sawa people.  But Dangote officials held their grounds, threatening to drag the government to a London arbitration court for unilateral breach of contract. 

According to government officials, the stalemate was finally resolved in late May following instructions from the Presidency of the Republic.  “Let me seize this opportunity to inform you that the mix-ups surrounding the site of the Dangote project have been entirely dissipated to enable resumption of the works,” Littoral Governor Joseph BetiAssomo told a mid-year coordination conclave on June 11.

The government inked the deal to have Nigerian billionaire AlikoDangote set up the factory in Douala last year.  The same Sawa chiefs who ended up throwing spanners in the works were conspicuously seen cheering at a ceremony to lay the 57.5 billion FCFA [about US$ 115 million] project foundation stone on the same site in September.

Despite the government-ordered resumption of the plant implantation, they have been addressing missives to the presidency reiterating their stanch opposition.  Elsewhere, local environmentalists say the plant is a source of worry.  Meantime, it sits directly opposite the Cameroon Cement Company, CIMENCAM built way back in 1960 and today controlled by the French group Lafarge.  Critics have insinuated the Sawa chiefs agitation may be bankrolled by veiled government officials weary of competition.

At the foundation-stone-laying ceremony last year, the Prime Minister touted the investment as a huge remedy, coming to correctthe country’s recurrent cement shortages.  CIMENCAM claims a current output of 1.6 million tons from two factories in Douala and Figuil in the north, far below demand estimated at 4 million tons and projected to grow at an 8 percent annual rate as the government embarks on a massive infrastructure spending spree.

Dangote has announced a one-million-ton yearly production capacity alongside the creation of hundreds of jobs.  However, officials have hinted the delay in the erection of the plant implies that an initial installation duration of 18 months may not be met.

Nonetheless, the Dangote factory installation will bring the number of cement manufacturers in Cameroon to three.  In May, and amid the Dangote stalemate, President Paul Biya visaed a project by Moroccan investors to build another cement plant in Douala.

AnasSefrioui, President-Director-General of the Moroccan Adohha Group told reporters the plant with a 500,000-ton annual production capacity will be built over six to eight months following the start of works on May 9 and guzzle circa 19.7 billion FCFA. 

On the sidelines, the investment will generate an estimated 1,000 jobs and engender drops in the cost of cement.  The factory itself will eventually prop Adohha’s projected investment in the real estate sector in Cameroon.  The company currently builds some 300,000 low-cost houses yearly in Morocco and elsewhere, which it sells off at around 15.7 million FCFA.

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