FINANCE minister Zainab Ahmed is confident that when the new Kaduna steel mill is up and running it will spark off the Nigerian industrial revolution as it will have the capacity to produce 1m tonnes a year.
Currently a mono-economy in which over 90% of government revenue comes from the sale of crude oil, Nigeria manufactures very little and is wholly dependent on imports for finished goods. This has created a huge balance of payment and balance of trade deficit as the cost of imports now exceeds revenue from petroleum imports with the collapse in the global demand and the price of crude oil.
Nigeria’s only hope of reversing this trend is the manufacture goods locally to both meet domestic demand and to generate export revenue. To get manufacturing going, however, a nation needs petroleum, power and steel and Nigeria is desperately lacking the latter two, especially steel, of which she barely produces one tonne.
However, according to Ms Ahmed, a $1.5bn steel plant that is nearing completion in Kaduna State will address the matter and when up and tuning, it will attract automobile industries to Nigeria. Speaking while inspecting the plant over the weekend, she said the facility, known as the African Natural Resources and Mines, an African Industries Group company, would help put an end to steel importation.
Ms Ahmed said: “We have deliberately attracted various industries to come into Nigeria because one of the main impediments to industrialisation has been the scarcity of high quality steel. So by this project we are now assured that we can attract the auto industries of the world to come into Nigeria and produce cars in Nigeria for Nigerians, as well as for the region.”
She described the African Natural Resources and Mines group as major partner for Nigeria’s economic development and diversification. Alok Gupta, the African Industry Group managing director, said the firm would be mining iron ore to produce direct reduced iron, which would enable the company produce a higher-grade steel more efficiently.
Ms Ahmed added: “There’s no country in the world that will be industrialised without having a stable steel industry. Your partnership with us as government means we are very much on the side to meet the aspiration of industrialising Nigeria.”
Mr Gupta said: “This investment in the long term will dramatically increase domestic steel production. We are capable of producing over 1m metric tonnes in a year.
“We are proud to be part of the looming steel revolution in Nigeria. Having invested over $1.5bn, we are hopeful that the expected steel revolution will have multiplier effects on the Nigerian economy.”
In addition, Mr Gupta also stated that the steel company supported the federal government in the fight against Covid-19 by donating N1.35bn to help curb the spread of the virus. It is not yet clear when the plant will actually start churning out finished steel.