Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, said on Monday he expected to step up exports of cement and other commodities from Nigeria from this year as he focuses on foreign markets to boost sales and generate much-needed hard currency.
Dangote told Reuters he expected to have 8 million tonnes of cement to start exporting from July and was commissioning a 650 000 bbl/d refinery near Lagos - set to be Africa's biggest - next year.
The export drive would expand further from 2020.
"By next year we will start exporting more than two-million tonnes of ammonia out of our three-million tonnes' capacity and we will export more than 35% of petroleum products and about 30-million tonnes of cement," he said.
He did not identify which foreign markets he was targeting.
Availability of hard currency in Nigeria would not be an issue provided oil prices stayed relatively buoyant.
"If the price of oil stabilizes at $60, I don't think we would have any problem," said Dangote, who according to Forbes is currently worth $10.5-billion.
OPEC member Nigeria suffered severe dollar shortages after prices of crude, its top export and main source of foreign exchange, plunged in late 2014, prompting the introduction of capital controls in 2015.
It now has multiple exchange rates against the US currency and has been selling the dollar on the interbank market to boost liquidity after floating the local naira currency for investors.
"We are looking forward and making sure that we supply more forex in the domestic market," Dangote said.
Nigeria used to spend around $2.5-billion a year to import cement but with increased investment it has become a net exporter. Dangote said his firm, Dangote Cement, could earn about $600-million to $700-million annually from cement export.
It has been expanding across the continent in recent years and already operates in 10 African countries. It has about 45% market share in sub-Saharan Africa with an annual production capacity of around 45-million tonnes.
Dangote Cement has been seeking to double that capacity.