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Dangote Cement Factory Project Deadlocked 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

CameroonPostline.com — Plans to fit Cameroon with a second cement manufacturing company are currently hemmed in a stalemate.  Indigenous Sawa traditional chiefs have successfully forced the venture to a standstill, denouncing the unilateral arrogation of their land by the government and a private Nigerian investor, Dangote Cement.

Dangote cement factory in Nigeria

The Douala chiefs’ rather acerbic opposition to the project climaxed this March.  Meeting at a general assembly on March 10 under the aegis of HM Din Dika Akwa, they pounded their chests in contentment after fruitfully lobbying for the government to order a discontinuation of the works flagged off since September last year.

Dangote Cement, which benefited from government backing to set up shop in Cameroon, eventually inked an accord with the Douala Ports Authority to erect its factory on the banks of the River Wouri.  It holds a 30-year-renewable lease on the site, which has habitually served as venue for the annual Sawa traditional and cultural festival, the Ngondo.

Meanwhile, the same chiefs now hindering the project flanked three government ministers and local municipal authorities at the laying of the project foundation stone last September 28.  The implantation of the factory was initially slated to span 18 months and gulp close to 60 billion FCFA.  

Dangote Cement officials are questioning why it is only now that they are voicing opposition to the initiative expected to significantly expand Cameroon’s cement supply and curb imports.  Speaking anonymously, they say they have undertaken too much work and expenditure on the site to backpedal now.  Feasibility probes on the site have been completed, and heavy-duty equipment ordered from abroad for the planned start of operations.

Cameroon’s lone cement manufacturing company, CIMENCAM, also located on the banks of the Wouri and directly opposite the now-disputed Dangote site, currently produces 1 million tons of cement annually from two factories.  Dangote Cement, a subsidiary of the Nigerian Dangote Group is targeting a production of 1.5 million tons yearly.

Apart from substantially addressing demand estimated [by the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development] at 4 million tons annually and growing by an 8 percent rate yearly, the Dangote project was expected to generate over 300 direct jobs.  The project has been repeatedly touted by the government as a solution to heavy cement imports and flying prices on the local market.

Dangote officials say they are in talks with Prime Minister Philemon Yang to intercede and are hopeful the standoff with the Sawa chiefs will be reconciled before very long, to enable the progress of the factory establishment.  In the meantime, red crosses etched on the company fencing by the Douala City Council and ordering Dangote to quit the site within 48 hours are still very visible.

Some observers are suspecting manipulation by CIMENCAM, partly owned by the French multinational Lafarge to frustrate the Dangote project from fear of competition.

Elsewhere, environmentalists have been categorical in their denunciation of the factory site.  According to Fritz Ngo, leader of the Mouvement Ecologistes du Cameroun party, MEC, it is unacceptable that a city like Douala, already suffering from multiform pollution should have two cement factories in the heart of town.

“There are bound to inevitable health complications.  Toxicity levels will increase as people inhale cement dust discharged into the atmosphere.  We are talking about heavy molecules which not flaot in the air, but will fall back with additional impacts on the environment,” he said.  However, Dangote staffers say they are ordering first-class equipment from countries like Germany to avoid any polluting discharges when production begins.
 

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