The Nigerian government has allowed Dangote Cement to resume exports across its land borders, raising hopes that Africa’s most populous nation may be opening up trade with neighbors after a year-long blockade.
President Muhammadu Buhari‘s administration gave its authorization for Africa’s biggest producer to export cement to Niger and Togo in the third quarter for the first time in ten months, Michel Puchercos, chief executive officer, said on an investor call in Lagos. The export was made possible “through authorization given by this administration,” he said.
The exemption to Dangote Cement is seen as a softening of the government’s position on a border closure that started in August last year, and could open the way for other bushinesses to fully resume exports across the country’s land barriers.
Nigerian authorities closed borders with neighboring countries including Benin and Niger to curb smuggling and boost local production. Although the blockade encouraged the consumption of locally grown produce such as rice, it hurt factories across West Africa, which rely on Nigeria’s market of 200 million people.
Dangote resumed land export with “restricted volumes,” and plans to grow the trade using the sea channels, according to Puchercos. A total of 69 tons was exported through land borders in the period, less than one percent of the 11,741 tons of cement sales while shipping by sea is also being explored, the company said.
The Lagos-based company’s plan to buy back some of its shares has been delayed by market volatility and low liquidity, which have affected valuation, Guillaume Moyen, acting chief financial officer said at the same conference call.