Its shimmering azure chimney stacks towering into the sky, the latest cement works launched by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote and due to start production in June, lies idle in a Senegalese meadow – stopped by legal action and cut-throat competition in a rapidly growing industry.
The west African nation’s government is being taken to a regional arbitration court in Ivory Coast by French manufacturer Vicat, which claims that the plant represents a “distortion of competition” in a country where the market is already saturated.
“A cement plant is dangerous, you need permits, prior authorisation and you also have to conduct an environmental impact study. That hasn’t been done,” Camara told AFP.
“The water-cooling would require a daily withdrawal of 4,500 m3 of groundwater, a precious commodity in an arid country like Senegal.”.
Dangote has said the operation would create 4,000 jobs and, in any case, the state has no power to oppose it, a source close to the Senegalese Ministry of Mines told AFP.
French President Francois Holland wrote to his Senegalese counterpart about the plant “to raise awareness of the difficulties”, according to a source in the Senegalese presidency.
Sall responded that “the rule of law and the Senegalese courts” would must be allowed to decide whether the project could go ahead, the source told AFP.
It is not the first time that the controversial project has run into problems.
Senegalese courts ruled during construction that it encroached on a sacred forest owned by the descendents of Cheikh Amadou Bamba, a Sufi Muslim mystic and religious leader who was revered by millions of Senegalese.
Construction was only allowed to recommence when Dangote offered the family a persuasive $12.6 million in compensation.
And in Galene, Community leader Bougouma Thiongane said despite residents’ objections the project had been “welcomed with open arms”.
By Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui