Togo’s Machine Mover
Family-run Groupe Heavymat Industry continues to supply vital machinery to industrial projects across Francophone Africa, the company recognised for its quick turnaround times and service
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Josh Mann
Nestled between Benin and Ghana, Togo has emerged as an ideal gateway into West Africa.
Its capital city, Lome, is now home to the leading container port in the region, overtaking Lagos thanks to its rapid growth in business in recent years. Container traffic has increased by a factor of three since 2013, with 1.1 million 20-foot containers passing through in 2017.
And the pattern looks set to continue. The Togolese government is doubling down on reform and investment plans which it hopes will transform the country into a critical transit hub in the Gulf of Guinea, and for companies based here such as Groupe Heavymat Industry, an exciting period lies ahead.
“Through the vision of our President H.E. Faure Gnassingbe, there has also been a very strong period of construction projects over recent years to update the national infrastructure, including the port at Lome,” explains David Rozand, the family firm’s Deputy Managing Director.
“This has resulted in new and renewed roads, a new airport, an additional seaport terminal and new border offices, and has encouraged the private sector to invest and develop more and more, especially towards our export market, since Togo is perfectly located to be a logistics hub for the region.”
Set up in 2006, Heavymat Industry is headquartered in Lome, its portside base covering 22,000 square metres and dedicated to the semi knocked down assembly and duty-free storage of machinery used in heavy industrial applications.
From bulldozers, road rollers and forklifts to tankers, buses and excavators, the company stocks more than 100 pieces of exclusively brand-new equipment and distributes them via its network of seven distribution branches in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and home country Togo.
Each of these sites houses a well-trained team of maintenance and service experts, Heavymat Industry serving clients covering a wide array of disciplines including construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, brewing, transport, the public sector and the military.
Rozand joined the firm straight out of his studies and intern experience in Europe in 2010, answering the call from his father to support the family business.
“That was not my initial plan,” he admits, “but nine years later I do realise that I was right to capture this opportunity. Having grown up with a Togolese and French dual culture, it has not been a big challenge to come back to my mother’s country after seven years spent far away from it.
“I was hoping I could adapt myself quite quickly to the specificities of working in Sub-Saharan Africa, while implementing what I’ve learned in Europe. And through these years we have been able to build a strong notoriety in terms of our teams’ professionalism through the whole region.
“It has been such an exciting period developing our company’s skills, partnerships, image and results, and now being at the top management level of the group, it is another exciting adventure that lies ahead.”
Indeed, Heavymat Industry is unique in that it is the only international group in its segment that is truly Sub-Saharan African, the company backed by African and private capital.
For Rozand, this offers an immediate advantage.
“The difference with big foreign dealers establishing branches in the region is mostly about reactivity, flexibility and competitiveness on pricing,” he explains. “We are in opposition to most of them and are not afraid to bring huge stock on the ground – this allows us to give the best delivery time to our customers.
“Also, we are much more involved in social development through hiring and training, while many trading companies focus on optimising their resources for immediate profit. We have a much longer vision than that, because Heavymat Industry is built to survive for the people who created it, and we want to grow alongside our customers that we prefer to call partners.”
On the subject of partners, this leads Rozand to highlight the hugely significant role played by Heavymat Industry’s suppliers, chiefly the Chinese OEMs who it imports from.
According to the Deputy MD, Heavymat is the first West African company to import and sell Chinese-made heavy machinery, proving that they are up to the standards set by more established competitors from the likes of Japan, Europe and the US.
Other major brand dealers have followed suit, and the relationship Heavymat Industry has with its China-based manufacturers is a defining factor in its success story to date.
“Our partners are leaders in their industry at national and international level, and the main difference they have compared to western brands is that they keep producing simple technologies,” Rozand says.
“This is what most African contractors are after, hence we have been able to bring consistent solutions to our market by working with the Chinese factories, which have responded very efficiently to our demands and technical feedback from the ground.
“In a very short time, some of our products became references against premium brands’ models, and this is the result of a close relationship with our suppliers.”
Another big advantage cited by Rozand is volume. For instance, key supplier Sinotruk can produce 400 trucks a day, while the likes of Yutong can manufacture approximately 250 buses on a daily basis.
This could be important as Heavymat Industry eyes up expansion in the near future.
Its existing model in Lome has proven itself as a cost-efficient operation, a process which has led to potential partners enquiring about the possibility of the company duplicating its setup in other parts of Africa.
While Rozand reveals that he is considering the idea closely, he also recognises the importance of continued investment in Togo in order to anchor its footprint and improve on its current service offering to clients all around the region.
“For the next two years Heavymat will continue to consolidate its leadership position in West African French speaking countries and highly increase its sales volume,” he says.
“We will bring a huge enhancement to our distribution network by 2020 and our sales forecasts are very promising. From there we may develop two new hubs in order to cover at least 10 additional countries, spanning Western and Central Africa.”
These ambitions reflect the Deputy MD’s optimism about the wider trade scene around the West African coast and inland, activity which he believes will prompt even further investment in infrastructure and provide Heavymat with new opportunities to grow.
“We also feel the impact of competition between foreign countries to become privileged partners of Africa, this being due to the abundance of natural resources,” he remarks in his concluding comments.
“This phenomenon will lead to many new initiatives in industry, energy, culture, health, sport, social development and tourism, and that will unconditionally require construction. Heavymat Industry is connected to the market evolution and will always propose quality and cost-effective products and services.”