"Together with MSC, if the transaction is concluded, we will keep investing in the continent."
Could you summarize the most recent developments at Bolloré?
Over the last few years, the Bolloré Group diversified significantly its activities towards new sectors and new regions, while remaining a leader in logistics and ports in the African continent. Each year, it invests an average of €250 million to bring the infrastructures it operates up to the best international standards. Major projects are about to be launched in Africa by the end of the year, including the commissioning of the second container terminal in the port of Abidjan and a new 9,000 m² logistics base aiming at developing inbound and outbound air traffic and providing value-added storage for all types of freight, including perishable goods destined for the Ivorian market or European countries. As for our railways’ activities, Camrail, the operator of Cameroon’s railways, has now embarked on a second five-year investment plan and it is preparing to renovate 567 km of track on the Belabo-Ngaoundéré and Douala-Yaoundé sections. In addition, the Group is still working on expanding its network and developing new offers based on both innovation and sustainability to be able to respond to our customers’ needs.
The Bolloré Group signed in March an agreement relating to the sale to the MSC Group of its transport and logistics activities in Africa. Will the merger change the structure of Bolloré Africa Logistics?
The process is expected to be finalised by the end of the first quarter of 2023, after obtaining regulatory and competition authority approvals as well as the agreement of certain counterparties. Bolloré Africa Logistics will remain an independent entity that will keep its organisation and its headquarters in Puteaux.
What have been the main demand trends in the African mining industry over the past year?
Demand has been rampantly high, especially in the gold market, but also across the minerals field which is directly linked to applications in the electric vehicles market, as well as the production of mobile phones and other electrical devices. In the same vein, demand for lithium is also running high, prompting investments in new lithium mines in Africa. Copper production at some of the largest mines in the Copperbelt region has almost doubled, so copper export volumes have been significant. While the strong demand for mineral commodities is positive, it has led to logistics pressures, particularly on truck availability. There are not enough trucks to transport the mining materials from Zambia and the DRC to port destinations. Bolloré is investing in expanding our truck fleet to respond to this heightened demand with an upcoming 120 new trucks order. Also we can notice that export vessels for the Africa-Asia route are also running short, driven by a strong mineral demand from Asia.
How has Bolloré adapted to the multiple instances of political instability and ensuing ECOWAS sanctions in West Africa?
The current situation in West Africa and more particularly in the landlocked countries brings us to find new solutions. We had to explore corridors not used before – via Mauritania and Morocco by truck up to Mali, and we used the Conakry port in Guinea to reach the mines in Mali.
Could you share what is Bolloré’s recruitment strategy in Africa?
In each of the 48 African countries we operate in we hire 99% local staff and support our employees throughout their careers. A staple of our recruitment strategy in Africa is based on intra-mobility through which we essentially expatriate local talent from one African country to another to gain expertise as leaders and to share expertise and impart their knowledge to new staff. In this way, we empower our experienced staff while building new local workforces. Training is also a big part of our HR policy to upskill our talented individuals. Besides online courses at different levels, we have dedicated training centers, like the Pan-African Port Training Center in Abidjan which trains about 500 staff yearly across different logistics functions, or the École Supérieure des Métiers Ferroviaires (ESMF, higher institute of railway occupations), that welcomes every year some 30 students from Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso offering them dedicated training.
Do you have a final message for our international audience?
Bolloré was one of the first companies to invest in Africa with a long-term view. Many years after, we still continue to believe in Africa. Together with MSC, if the transaction is concluded, we will keep investing in the continent and develop a logistics ecosystem while placing our customers at the heart of our strategy.