From construction to the bank, who will stop Mahamadou Bonkoungou?

Emperor of construction in Burkina Faso, in the footsteps of his grandfather Oumarou Kanazoé, businessman Mahamadou Bonkoungou, 55, continues to gain influence beyond the borders of the former Upper Volta. In a few years, the boss of the diversified group Ebomaf founded in 1989, has penetrated the heart of West African powers, winning multiple markets under the beard of Western groups yet strongly established in Africa such as the French Sogea-Satom.

Known for having won the contract for the Ouagadougou interchange, a vast hub of intra-urban roads allowing the capital to relieve congestion since 2018, the businessman has to his credit dozens of other contracts supporting the strengthening of the road network. and airport infrastructure in the sub-region. The Pya-Sarakawa-Kanté section in Togo; the rehabilitation of the airports of the Ivorian cities of Kong, San Pedro or Korhogo, but also the construction of the road connecting Ferkessédougou to Kong (120 kms) in the same country; the rehabilitation of the Dassa-Salavou-Djougou road in Benin and the construction of nearly 350 km of roads in Liberia remain, to this day, the most emblematic. Its project portfolio amounts to more than 1000 billion CFA francs (1.5 billion €).

The secret of this success lies in the existence, alongside these construction activities, of the airline Liza Transport International (LTI), owned by the same Burkinabè tycoon. In a sparse and fragile West African airline market, this commercial jet and aircraft rental company is playing both Ebomaf’s business card and a formidable lever for future contracts. LTI has established itself in a balding and fragile West African airline market. Inspired by Oumarou Kanazoé, boss of the OK group who died in 2011 who was one of the few entrepreneurs to own a helicopter in Burkina Faso made available to the inner circle of Blaise Compaoré and the country’s economic operators, Mahamadou Bonkoungou quickly took advantage of his company. On the one hand, thanks to a more attractive price offer than the jets made available by European or Middle Eastern companies. On the other hand, by making up for the shortage of aircraft in many sub-regional presidencies.

A subsidiary of Ebomaf, LTI was launched in 2013 after the acquisition of two Falcons from Dassault Aviation, in this case a 900Ex EASY with 14 seats and an 8X. This fleet was bolstered by an Agusta Westland 109S helicopter, a Beechcraft King Air 350i and a 19-seat Airbus 318-112 Elite. The latter aircraft was the flagship of LTI until the acquisition, in 2020, of an Airbus 319 CJ VIP and a Boeing 737 serving as a cargo plane registered P4-EBO, formerly owned by the Brazilian company. Connect Cargo.

This private fleet, one of the most flourishing in the sub-region, is thus acclaimed by local elites, starting with Marc Roch Christian Kaboré. The Burkinabe president flew on the A319 to the G5 Sahel summit in Ndjamena last February. Alpha Condé, Faure Gnassingbé and Patrice Talon are regular passengers on LTI planes. The Falcon 8X transported Faure Gnassingbé to Ivory Coast to attend the funeral of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, in July 2020. Presented to Mahamadou Bonkoungou through the intermediary of the ex-Burkinabè foreign minister Djibril Yipènè Bassolé, Alpha Condé requests the Falcon 900 Ex EASY. In 2016, he borrowed this device to attend the inauguration of President Mahamadou Issoufou in Niamey. Faure Gnassingbé was one of the very first heads of state to fly on LTI planes, including to Italy, his resort country where he stays every year for his vacations. Togo was, in turn, one of the first countries outside Burkina Faso to designate Ebomaf for works, in particular the Pya-Kanté road.

While the national company Air Burkina is experiencing severe turpitude in the context of the global Covid 19 pandemic, Ebomaf is used by political personnel from all walks of life. The escorting of high dignitaries thus allows the businessman to evolve in the closed club of heads of state where he brings to bear his know-how and his notoriety. His affinities with several of them reverberate, promoting genuine co-optation between presidents. Ebomaf’s pan-African dimension reinforces this publicity.

Even if he fiercely defends himself from “gifting” these officials or giving them advantageous prices, the Burkinabè magnate cultivates an air diplomacy that is particularly favorable to the fluidity of his business. Its connections are gradually extending to Central Africa with markets in Equatorial Guinea but also in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2017, LTI’s Boeing 318 brought back to Kinshasa the remains of Etienne Tshisekedi, father of Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi and historic opponent of Mobutu Sese Seko. In the DRC, Mahamadou Bonkoungou met the governor of Kinshasa in 2019, André Yango, to develop several projects in the Congolese capital.

The sudden disappearance of Ivorian Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko in March lost the businessman a precious foothold in Côte d’Ivoire. Under this prime minister, Mahamadou Bonkoungou was positioned on the coastal road project linking Abidjan to the city of San Pedro (east) for a contract worth more than € 1 billion. A market finally abandoned. Close to the former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Côte d’Ivoire (GLCI), he is however connected to the highest authorities of the country, including the new Prime Minister Patrick Achi. Mahamadou Bonkoungou also intends to use his merger with Umaro Sissoco Embalo concerning the construction of the road linking Bissau to Dakar. The rapprochement with the Bissau-Guinean head of state elected in 2019 was achieved through Mahamadi Savadogo, president of the Burkina Faso Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI-BF) and boss of the diverse group Smaf International (hydrocarbons, construction, import-export, etc.) nicknamed “Gaddafi” because of his studies in Libya and the first Burkinabè operator to have opened business relations with Beijing in the 1980s. Other projects, however, are lagging behind such as the construction of the Calavi-Cococodji section responsible for improving traffic in the Beninese economic capital Cotonou.

The Burkinabè businessman expanded his business into the banking sector after the creation of the International Business Bank (IB Bank) whose first branch was established in Lomé. Last January, this new establishment inaugurated a subsidiary in Djibouti. This opening makes it possible to support the group’s development strategy, the Ebomaf projects being financed by equity with guarantees from the States concerned. The businessman is reimbursed once his sites are delivered.

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