Dangote, Musk: A tale of two tycoons

Nigeria only on November 1, 2013 formally completed the sale of majority share of her power assets (generation and distribution) to private business hands.

In doing that, she maintained that the step would be the first firm amongst many steps needed to be made to lift the country out of the cycle of epileptic power supply she has being in since independence.

Three years after that exercise was launched, one of her foremost titans of industry, Alhaji Aliko Dangote of the famed Dangote Group called out on the process as a failure.

Dangote in a blanket judgment said the processes that were passed in the power privatisation exercise were faulty and had helped the wrong people without competencies buy the power assets.

In the mind of the illustrious billionaire, much of the privatised assets were sold off to investors without both the knowledge on how to run such businesses as well the financial capacity to float the businesses especially at a time the sector is undergoing a very hard time.

His greatest criticism was saved for those who he believes went to borrow money in foreign currency to buy into the distributing and generating companies, all the while forgetting that their returns would be in naira thus any volatility in the foreign markets could gravely jeopardize their activities.

He therefore called for a repossession and subsequent resale of those assets to those who can adequately manage them.

Predictably, the government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) which oversaw the sale exercise, stepped up to the plate to challenge him on that assertion, asking him to keep faith in the power privatisation because it believes it will work with time.

The BPE further revealed that government was about to part with some of its 40% stake in the power firms, especially the Discos to stabilize their operations.

Juxtaposing Dangote’s position with what the mesmeric Elon Musk, a billionaire like him recently did – launching the Tesla Solar Roof tiles to a global audience, OGN considers the two situations and their narratives on power as a mini representation of the problems inherent in the Nigerian system.

In a world where innovation has become a watchword and used heavily in boardrooms across the business world, we believe it is time Nigerian big business players take up keen interests in the phenomena.

The world is moving to a direction anyone with no cutting edge innovative skillsets will be able cope with. Musk appears to understand this while Dangote seems uncertain on this.

Mini-grids, off-grid solutions, biomass reactors, and other RE solutions are routinely sprouted and thrown to governments and businesses. They are being refined and deployed to help businesses and homes become electrified.

Nations are diversifying their electricity sources, and Nigeria cannot afford to be left out of this crusade. The government must remain resolute and refuse the push by Dangote to go his way, the old way.

The government must in fact stand against the temptation of doing what it knows and what is convenient for it but which has not given Nigeria the amount of electricity it desires. Nigeria must look more into the future and less into the past. If at all there is a need to look back, it should solely be to pick lessons for future decisions.

While the BPE does have its shortcomings and may be actively seeking to correct the missteps that may have come with the past power privatisation process, Nigeria therefore should be forward in its thinking.

There are currently 14 Independent Power Projects (IPP) solar farms that are to be built in the country, this we believe offers Nigeria a good pivot to the new vistas for electricity and the government should spend its time making this a reality.

Also, Dangote is best positioned to key into this truly innovative thrust, and he should. Sadly for him, the reality remains that the PHCN power privatisation is done and dusted. There should be no going back on it.

He however has another chance to get on the power business through RE and off-grid solutions which has been adjudged the quickest means to serving unitary communities and businesses not connected to the power grid.

Like Musk, Dangote as a big industrialist should be innovative, he should innovatively and not traditionally think for Nigeria.