The Petroleum Patron
Having obtained a 30 percent market share in just three years, Atlas Energy is taking the Gambian petroleum industry by storm
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Ashley Parfitt
In the words of the African Development Bank, Gambia’s economic recovery is gaining real traction.
Indeed, the country was hit by hampering economic shocks, in agriculture from erratic rainfall and in tourism due to the adverse effects of the Ebola crisis, and suffered from a period of political uncertainty during 2016-2017. However, in the past two years, confidence has grown sharply, with real GDP growth now standing at 5.4 percent.
“The Gambia is the most politically stable it has been for a very long time,” explains Hally Mass Jobe, Managing Director of Atlas Energy, part of Oryx Energies group of companies and one of the country’s wholly indigenous petroleum players. “With the new democratic dispensation, business is easier than ever as the government is poised to grow the economy by making the economic environment more conducive.”
A company founded at the inception of national import liberalisation in the Gambian market in 2015, Atlas Energy is a prime example of the country’s prosperous upturn in fortunes.
Rapidly expanding in the space of just three years and benefiting from Oryx Energies’ support, the company’s operations now span four depots and 28 commercial petroleum service stations, with services predominantly focussed on the retail, B2B, aviation, bunkering, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and lubricants markets.
“We see ourselves as a fine example of patriotism towards our shareholders, employees, customers, society and the country as a whole,” explains Jobe. “When we began, we were number two in the market, but we quickly rose to pole position and we have maintained it ever since.”
“We supply petroleum products from east to west and north to south, which might sound like a small achievement given the size of Gambia, but this sets us apart given most of our competitors are still unable to achieve this.”
This in mind, Atlas Energy stands firmly at the forefront of the Gambian oil and gas industry, maintaining a 30 percent share of the petroleum market, while also being the leading business in the aviation segment.
A customer first philosophy
In the eyes of Jobe, Atlas’s exponential rise can be attributed to a set of specific strategies such as the firm’s bold approach to expansion.
“Where we find good business practice and great assets, we don’t hesitate to make acquisitions and I believe this has been a great reason for our success,” he reveals, citing the firm’s mergers with Total Gambia Ltd, Elton Oil Ltd, Galp, and most recently Oryx Energies. “We also look for partners where necessary, working with quite a few local companies and individuals to achieve our targets.
“We recognise collective efforts provide crucial strides towards our goal of become the leading innovative petroleum company on the continent. Wherever there is synergy, we are willing to collaborate.”
Coupled with this is the company’s emphasis on operational excellence, a trait that has been characteristic of Atlas from the outset.
“We believe in doing the common things uncommonly well,” Jobe continues. “Customer service is at the core of our business; the customer’s satisfaction is our core priority. We want to remain a brand that people can trust to deliver exceptional service and quality products.”
This approach is particularly evident in Atlas’s role as a one-stop shop for its retail clients, its flagship service stations equipped with everything from carwashes to shops to lube bays to restaurants.
Further, in adherence with this service-centric mantra, the firm has introduced a real time coupon scanning platform to provide its corporate clientele with a fleet management solution at no additional cost to them.
“In a regulated market, these are the things we believe set us apart from our competitors,” adds Jobe. “We want to stay pioneers in our industry and technology and innovation are one way we would like to do this.”
The Atlas family
Asked about how else Atlas Energy will be looking to maintain such a position, the MD is quick to point to the abilities of the company’s 200-plus direct employees (500-plus people who indirectly work with or for Atlas Energy).
“At Atlas we believe that our people are the most important asset to our company,” he reveals. “Our team is young and energetic but at the same time experienced and seasoned. We are diverse in age and gender and we pride ourselves in that.”
A team that remains 100 percent Gambian, the company has become renowned as an employer of choice, providing clear, coherent career paths and new opportunities for willing workers across the country.
“We treat everyone like family,” Jobe adds. “We ensure our people are well taken care of and we make sure they are happy to be a part of the Atlas family. Our most important resource are the people behind this company, and we see it as our duty to ensure that we have the best package in the industry so that our staff are happy and proud of the company they work for.”
What’s more, operational excellence is not the only area where Atlas Energy excels, equally priding itself on its responsible and active initiatives within local communities. These are far reaching, the firm supporting anything from healthcare programmes to the arts.
“One of our most notable corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities is that we are a proud sponsor of a 14 children house at the SOS Children’s village in the Gambia. We are the longest standing sponsor of the village,” Jobe reveals. “We also work with other local charities, who are involved in everything from visual impairment to mental health.
“Our world is changing, and people are noticing – increasingly more people are interested in where they spend their money. We have a responsibility in the communities that we operate in and we do not take this lightly.”
Ultimately, it is the whole of Gambia that is set to benefit from Atlas Energy’s continual growth and Oryx Energies’ investment in the country, whether it’s the introduction of innovative technologies or these grassroots CSR activities.
Moving forward, the firm has readied plans to expand its retail network and further spread its footprint across the country, while also importing brand new Oryx Energies cylinders into the LPG market that are rapidly powering the emergence of a vibrant national LPG sector.
“Of course, we aim to maintain our position in the market by growing our footprint in retail, but we would also like to expand our activities into other markets in the sub region, such as reshaping the lifestyle of Gambians with our presence in LPG,” Jobe affirms.
And owed to composure sweeping Gambia’s economic and political climate, the stage is set for Atlas Energy to achieve each of these goals looking ahead.
The Managing Director concludes with extensive optimism: “Our tourism sector is booming, something that’s great for our aviation business, and there are many expected projects geared towards infrastructural development within the country.
“We plan to take full advantage of this.”