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Moroccan Cement Factory Announced Amid Persisting Dangote Deadlock 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

CameroonPostline.com — Amid bogged down plans by Nigeria’s Dangote Cement group to startup a factory in Douala, President Paul Biya has visaed a project by Moroccan investors to build a cement plant in the city.

President Biya and Anas Sefrioui

Anas Sefrioui, President-Director-General of the Moroccan Adohha Group was all smiles as he exited talks with President Biya at Unity Palace Wednesday, May 9.  He told reporters the Cameroonian head of state had visaed his company’s venture; a prelude to Adohha’s planned investments in low-cost housing projects nationwide.

The foundation stone for the heralded cement factory will be laid at the Bonaberi Industrial Zone in Douala’s west end on May 19, Sefrioui told reporters.  The plant, with a 500,000-ton annual production capacity will be built over six to eight months thereafter 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.

While the Moroccans are basking in contentment after clinching the deal, officials with the Nigerian Dangote group are sure biting their fingers in regret.  Their hitherto ongoing erection of a cement factory on the banks of the R. Wouri in Douala has been forced to a standstill since February following fiery opposition from indigenous Sawa coastal chiefs.

And the government, which actually invited billionaire Aliko Dangote to set up shop in the country amid biting cement paucity in 2008, has been curiously hesitant in resolving the protracting stalemate.  After years of negotiations, Dangote finally inked an agreement with the government to set up a second cement-producing company in the country in September 2011. 

During the foundation-stone laying ceremony the same month, the company officials unveiled plans to invest 57.5 billion FCFA [about US$ 115 million] in the project with an earmarked one-million-ton yearly production capacity.

Following satisfactory placement surveys ordered by the investor, the government via the Ports Authority of Douala endorsed the choice of Base Elf on the flanks of the Wouri River to seat the factory.  The agreement also accorded Dangote Cement Cameroon Ing a 30-year-renewable lease on the site.  But in February, and amid ongoing equipment installation in prelude to the actual start of production, native Sawa chiefs successfully lobbied for a halt of operations.   

They denounced the “unilateral arrogation of their land by the government and the Nigerian investor,” claiming sacrilege considering the site serves as the venue for the Ngondo, the annual traditional and cultural festival of the coastal Sawa people.  Elsewhere, environmentalists backed by local media condemned the decision to install the company “in the heart of the city,” citing looming public health hazards and multiform damages to the environment.

Eventually, the Douala City Council ordered the temporal suspension of the factory implantation.  Ever since, intense negotiations between several government ministers, the chest-pounding Sawa chiefs as well as officials of the Douala port and Dangote Cement have failed to clear the hurdles.  While the ethnic chiefs want the project relocated, Dangote officials say they are not backing off an inch from the site.

In late April, and amid the blazing controversy, Dangote emissaries met with PM Philemon Yang to slate their worries over the prolonging stalemate.  They expressed their readiness to resume works amid media-spawned announcing the venture had been shelved and that Dangote was preparing to lodge a damage-seeking lawsuit against the Cameroon government at an arbitration court in London.

Meantime, Dangote Cement Cameroon Ing had been touted by government officials as a big remedy for the country’s inadequate cement supplies.  The lone cement manufacturing company 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 growing at an 8 percent annual rate.

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