"The likelihood of obtaining a contract with a Chinese operator or an Indian operator within the DRC remains very low, maybe at 1%, and is limited."
What is AMS’s core expertise?
AMS is engaged in servicing mining contractors in the DRC with hydraulic services, motors, pumps, final drive, propshaft and all hydraulic components required on small to large earthmoving equipment, from ADT’s bulldozers to excavators (both small and large) used in both underground and open-pit operations. We work either directly with the mines or with contractors. Our team cumulates decades of experience in the business.
How did AMS manage the pandemic?
2020 drove many clients outside of the country while others shut off operations. The last two years have been tough; contractors were unable to work and had to park all of their equipment. The pandemic has been a learning curve for everyone, teaching us all how to maintain continuity even in an industry that is traditionally very physically bound and where sending people to work from home is not always possible. Remote working allows us to do only so much – check spares, assess damages, but physical presence and inspection is a must in this industry.
In 2021 various companies have restarted their operations and the trend has been more positive altogether. The starting of Kamoa is on everyone’s lips as well, and with this mine coming onstream the entire sector should see benefits rippling down. As the pandemic eases, I believe we should see more foreign investment into the country during 2022 and 2023.
What has been the effect of the subcontracting law on the sector?
The subcontracting law introduced in 2018 still lacks uniform implementation – that means some mines respect it and others don’t. The intended impact of the law falls short of being realized and the lack of enforcement hinders the growth of the country and does not allow Congolese companies like ourselves to advance. I personally believe 2022 will see things improving in this category for all concered.
Chinese operators will, in most cases, bring in their own contractors and employ very few Congolese. This remains a very difficult market to penetrate and we currently don’t count on any Chinese customers to support us. The likelihood of obtaining a contract with a Chinese operator or an Indian operator within the DRC remains very low, maybe at 1%, and is limited.
In other words, the fact that the subcontracting law was passed is only a small part of the story; the other part is getting every stake holder on board and to support this law, especially in the lower layers of the value chain.
What are your key priorities in the next 1-2 years?
Our constant goal has been to offer more to our clients, be them contractors like MCSC and Congo Equipment, or the miners themselves. Our business is all about improving our service. It is also important we stay close to our customers and remind them we are there for them, so when we deal with a workshop manager, superintendent, or an engineer on the ground, we need to maintain their awareness of our brand and our services. Otherwise, it is only natural the clients will be distracted by other issues and we cease to be their priority. This is why we want to increase the frequency of our site visits, stay available 24h to respond to any emergency that may occur, and make our wide spectrum of services known to clients.
In the DRC, everything takes time – what will take one business day in other parts of the world, in the Congo it may take up to three business days. This is an aspect we need to factor into our business, so we need to plan carefully to provide a quick and reliable service. We want to always offer more; more reliability, faster execution, and top standards of our engineering and workshop facilities.
Is there scope for expansion into other markets in the foreseeable future?
At this stage, our focus remains anchored in the Congo, and we have a sister company in Zambia, operative for 30 years. The setup costs of entering another market are astronomical and not justifable at this point. The DRC is still a young market for us, having been here for only about a decade now, so there are many opportunities for expanding our existing clientele here in the country.
Do you have a final message?
Contrary to popular belief and negative publicity, Congo is a safe country. There will always be risks when going into a foreign country, but when done well, there ae no issues at all. Ivanhoe’s Kamoa is a perfect example of successful investment, which should in itself encourage further investment into the country. If Ivanhoe could do it, others can too.