Written by Abigail Phillips
Dangote Group has earned a reputation for being one of the most successful companies ever to have emerged from Nigeria. African Business Review spoke to Group Executive Director, Devakumar Edwin about its meteoric rise to the top and its future plans for expansion and development.
Thirty years ago, when President and CEO Aliko Dangote founded the company, it focused on international trade of commodities such as cement, textiles, sugar, flour and salt. The first few years of trading allowed Dangote Group to diversify its product offeringin 1999 when the strategic decision to transit from a trading based business into a fully-fledged manufacturing operation was mooted. The company already had established suppliers and distribution networks allowing it to focus on developing its manufacturing arm quickly and efficiently.
Training the Dangote way
The businesses evolution bought with it a need for modern technology and a greater workforce and this is where Dangote shone. Very early on in the transition, the company recognised the need for intensive training if it was going to succeed, especially considering that fact that all other plants in Nigeria used very out-dated technology.
“Our focus on training took a front seat immediately,” said Edwin. “Our cement plants have some of the most sophisticated technology in the world and therefore we need to train people in line with global standards.”
The first Dangote Cement manufacturing plant employed fresh graduates plus 1,000 Nigerian workmen who had very limited experience working with mechanical operations. “We really believe in developing our employees so we started the Dangote Academy,” explained Edwin. “We offer all of our employees in-house training, we send them to Denmark, the US, South Africa and India to learn from industry experts and we also invite specialists from across the world to our plants.”
The beauty of the Dangote Academy is its not a one-time-only training programme, but a scheme that is integral to the development of the company – employees are given top-up training every six months and have the opportunity to go on courses. Furthermore, Dangote has forged partnerships with local colleges and universities to tap into the local pool of talent, while offering its employees development opportunities.
The value of training
Dangote Cement spends a substantial amount of money on training each year for employees across all divisions. “We don’t treat budget as a restraint when it comes to training because it ensures our plants operate at peak efficiency. It’s a long-term investment and one that reaps many rewards,” said Edwin.
Dangote Group is always investing in superior technology to bring it in line with global standards. In fact, Edwin recalls speaking to executives from large corporations in both the US and Europe, who conceded the technology Dangote has installed is far more advanced than machinery they were using. Advanced technology, coupled with a number of other factors has led to Dangote Cement’s huge success. As Edwin explains, “We have a very good understanding of our markets and we know our industries better than any of our competitors. We always invest in ultra modern technology, which gives us the lowest oil consumption and the overall best efficiency – so again we invest a lot of money but it gives long-term, substantial returns.
“We also invest a lot in our people, which rewards us with much greater return compared with our competitors. The other area in which we excel is quality; every plant is managed to very high standards. We can export globally owing to our very high standards, our market share and our highly trained workforce.”
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