Exclusive interview with Jerome Petit, Bolloré Logistics Africa General Manager

Jerome Petit believes that the signing of the CFTA is good news.

«BOLLORÉ COVERS ALL THE AFRICAN CONTINENT»

Abidjan remains one of the bastions of the Bolloré group.

Present on the African continent for half a century, Bolloré intends to invest 100 million euros between 2017 and 2018 in the logistics part. Eight regional hubs are involved, says Jérôme Petit. Interview.

What are Bolloré’s main activities in Africa?

In Africa, Bolloré has four core businesses: port concession operations, shipping, logistics and railways. Present in Africa for over fifty years, our group covers the entire continent (46 countries) and employs 24,000 people. Our success is based on a long-term vision, resilience capacity and diversification in terms of trades and geography. This long-term strategy, facilitated by family ownership and the vision of our owner, Mr Bolloré, also allows us to manage different types of crises, health, security etc.

How has the Bolloré group evolved in its various activities in 2017?

In 2017, the activity was part of the continuity and the implementation of our strategy in four business lines with a clear view on the evolution of the economic and environmental activities of Africa. Over the last decade, Bolloré has invested immensely in the port area. In West Africa, we have positioned ourselves well in port management. The aim is, in partnership with the shipowners, to be able to accommodate bigger and bigger ships. Ten years ago, the average size of ships from Asia was 1500 TEU. Today, the same vessels make 8,000 TEUs. The volume of boats has been multiplied by four to five times, which requires a lot of investment at the terminals.

In addition, we systematically invested in logistics hubs connected to our global network. I will come back to this point. Regarding the economic situation, we note a recovery in economic activity in Africa since the second half of 2017. But this recovery has highlighted the congestion upstream and downstream of ports.

Concessionaires are often designated responsible for port congestion. What is it?

The dealer is the easiest link to identify. The port and the port operators have their own responsibilities, investment commitments, works and equipment to keep. If the port operator maintains its commitments (this is the case of Bolloré in West Africa), it will be necessary to ask is that all the port ecosystem is functional. In particular, if access roads are cleared, truck parking available etc. For example, in Dakar, there is often an impressive queue of trucks to access the port. Most of the ports in the region were built forty or fifty years ago in the city center. This partly explains congestion.

To cope with the problem, Bolloré is continuing to invest in new generation terminals. There is the project of the new terminal in Abidjan, the new MPS terminal being built in Ghana and the new port of Kribi 150 km from Douala, Cameroon.

The second axis of investment in this macroeconomic congestion environment is the development of logistics hub areas outside cities. We will do this in Senegal to feed the corridor to Mali. In the same vein, we will proceed to the extension of the roro terminal from the port of Dakar to Diamniadio.We have a similar project in Guinea Conakry where the port is at the end of the peninsula of the city.

The third axis of investment will be the dematerialization of documentation in the broad sense. Currently, a container that lands in Africa remains between 8 and 12 days against 2 and 5 days in Asia. As the maritime transit time tends to be reduced, because of investments in modern ships and terminals, the administrative transit time remains significant. If we break down the chain of intervention between the moment when the container is available at the port and its delivery time, there is a lot of inefficiency between customs payments, various taxes, invoices and procedures.

In addition, we continue to pursue the development of corridors, multimodal transport and the development of new Logistics warehouses to international standards.

What about your projects in the railway field?

The railway remains important for Bolloré. We have two concessions in West Africa. In Central Africa, there are planned investments in equipment, maintenance and training. Ditto in Ivory Coast where investments, in particular in the purchase of the rolling stock, the repair of the way and the maintenance -guidance is envisaged within the framework of the renewal of the concession of Sitrail. We also see the development of new lines that will strengthen the role of the Railway in Africa, including the new lines Nairobi -Mombasa and Djibouti-Addis Abeba that will participate in the fluidity of trade.

Does the West Africa rail loop project still have a future following the statements of the President of Benin, Patrice Talon?

This rail loop has two axes: the first Ivory Coast / Burkina and a second Benin / Niger. We continue to invest on the first axis via Sitarail. On the second axis, a judgment was rendered, interrupting the Bolloré project. We will follow the rest of this case. In any case, it is an important project for the countries concerned, Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso.

President Talon alluded to China and its financial capacity to resume such a project?

Indeed, I read it in the press. Of course, government-to-government financing involves other terms and fewer financial limits. Bolloré’s vocation is to carry out business carried by an exploitation scheme.

What does Bolloré’s activities in Africa represent in Bolloré worldwide?

Bolloré Transport & Logistics is 106 countries including 46 in Africa. We employ 36,000 people worldwide, including 24,000 in Africa. At the turnover level, we are 30% in Africa and 70% in the rest of the world. On the African continent, we have an activity that consumes a lot of labor. The major challenge remains for us to connect Africa with our global network and help our international, Indian, Asian and American clients to enter Africa. In general, the Bolloré Group invests more than 300 million Euro per year in Africa. More specifically in Logistics, Bollore Logistics has committed to invest 100 million euros between 2017 and 2018, in its logistics warehouses and in particular in 8 regional hubs: Tanger Med, Côte d’Ivoire (new 18,000 Aerocity site). square meters next to Abidjan airport under construction), Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa.

What impact does the signature of the ZLEC have on your activities?

That’s very good news. Inter-Asian trade reaches 50% in value against 15 to 17% in Africa. The success of a free trade agreement is of course based on infrastructure, railways and ports. But also the simplification of the procedures and the customs harmonization expected from this agreement. In the coming years, inter-African exchanges will increase in strength thanks to the implementation of the CFTA.

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