"The biggest threat for the industry is not the security situation, but the departure of investors."
What have been the main developments at Bolloré over the past year?
One of the key developments is the continuation of our WARA Air Service. Bolloré commissioned the WARA chartered flights in 2020 to connect our European hub in Belgium to different West African cities: Abidjan, Bamako, Accra, Ouagadougou, Conakry. WARA carries important cargo for both industrial players (O&G, pharmaceuticals, mining etc) and other institutions, including NGOs, with two or three weekly flights across these destinations. In fact, what emerged as a solution to the shortages in air capacity at the peak of the pandemic remains in place to date.
Another legacy of 2020 is the establishment of a second container terminal at the port of Abidjan. Together with our JV partner, APM Terminals, and the Ivorian government, we launched the construction work of Côte d’Ivoire Terminal with the aim of fostering intra-African trade, creating high-performance logistics systems and bolstering the development of local processing industries. This new container terminal will also rank as a transshipment hub for neighbouring coastal countries and a preferred entry point for landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali.
How is Bolloré handling on-the-ground operational challenges such as security risks?
Bolloré has been active in Africa for over 50 years and we have a footprint in 48 countries, so we know length and width of Africa better than most other logistic providers. To overcome security challenges in Burkina Faso, Niger, but also Nigeria, we rely on our well-informed network and partners, working closely with the mining industry to ensure sensitive shipments are transported with utmost care and in the safest manner. Political instability, the sweep of terrorism and military coups have deterred investment in Africa, which pushes our clients to check opportunities in other parts of the world, such as South America. The biggest threat for the industry is not the security situation, but the departure of investors. Our decades-long continuity in these countries is a testament to our undeterred commitment to serving every part of the continent.
Can you share a few examples that reflect Bolloré’s ESG and CSR work?
Corporate social responsibility and environmental governance are core aspects that we seek to deploy universally across our operations in different countries. We formalized the “Powering Sustainable Logistics” program back in 2018, and this year it has received the official recognition of Ecovadis, who awarded us the Platinum certificate.
Also, as part of Bolloré Ports’ “Green Terminal” certification program, we integrated ESG within the development of our ports’ infrastructure. “Green Terminal” is an environmental label based on eight pillars that cover all environmental issues. It has been approved by Bureau Veritas, which will carry out audits to assess the performance of the port terminals operated by Bolloré Ports. This year, we ordered 36 electric towing vehicles for the Port of Abidjan, which should reduce the GHG emissions at the upcoming second container terminal.
What is the role of digitalization in Bolloré’s offer development?
At Bolloré we have a passion for innovation, and we are constantly introducing new technology and digital tools. Data is playing a vital role in the future of all industries, including logistics, and we are already working with data mining and data process technologies, as well as using advanced data analytics to look at business performance and identify areas of improvement. The latest tech wave is the use of mobile applications to track shipments and transfer money.
The digital infrastructure gap between Africa and the Western world is rapidly shrinking. One illustration of this progress is the widespread availability of electronic/online customs clearance replacing paper-based customs. Mining 4.0 is also gathering pace with the widespread use of IT solutions. We see the continent moving quickly to embrace new tech and build new tech infrastructure, while its young population guarantees fast adoption.
Do you have a final message for our international readers?
The whole world has gone through difficult times, and as a business, we confronted a very challenging period too. We are grateful for the resilience shown by our global network. Thanks to our diversified global presence, we were able to buffer demand-supply shocks and maintain a continuous supply chain. Bolloré is proud to offer innovative solutions that are well-received by the market. Our clients are at the heart of our innovation efforts and the drivers of our strategy.