Issue 73

Astrol Petroleum 2019

Fuelling Enterprise and Empowerment  Operating in an ever-competitive downstream petroleum market, Kenya’s Astrol Petroleum prides itself on quality, service and integrity to stand out from the crowd  Writer: Tom Wadlow  |  Project Manager: Ben Weaver Kenya’s petroleum market is an increasingly busy one.  Promising discoveries made in the northern region of Turkana have led to investment in crude oil production and export facilities, activity which could be underway by 2021, while construction of the 450-kilometre, $476.6 million Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline was completed in 2018.   The latter is a much-needed breakthrough which, once commissioning is complete, will replace the Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline that has been in operation for 40 years.  Although the Turkana deposits are slated for export only, such developments are cause for optimism among Kenya’s petroleum players.   A market historically dominated by foreign multinationals, the country is a net importer of petroleum products, making the ability to differentiate of paramount importance in what is a crowded industry.   This is especially the case for native independent enterprises such as Astrol Petroleum.   Specialising in the supply and distribution of products in Kenya via its network of filling stations, the company serves motorists, agribusinesses, power stations and industrial manufacturers around the country.   “This is not an industry for the faint-hearted,” says James Mwangi, the organisation’s Managing Director. “It is an extremely competitive field thanks to the open tender system in place, and around a hundred companies are involved in bidding for the importation of fuel.   “This makes for a fast-moving, vibrant market and the discovery of oil in the north is

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Water Utilities Corporation Botswana

Water Turned Welfare Through 800 boreholes, 3,700 employees and 500,000 connections, WUC is serving 2.5 million people across Botswana   Writer: Jonathan Dyble  |  Project Manager: Ben Weaver Water is unquestionably the world’s most precious resource. Without it, life on earth would simply cease to exist.  Farmers need it to grow crops; factories rely on it within their production cycles; and our domestic quality of life, from cooking to hygiene, has become substantially dependent on access to clean, safe water.  It is a dejected reality, therefore, that the latter is simply not available to almost one billion people globally – people who are faced with an amalgamation of risks related to drinking contaminated water every day.  This is not to say that it is an unsolvable problem, however.   Botswana, for example, is one country that has a fantastic track record in overcoming the prevalent challenge of water scarcity.  “Botswana covers an area about the same size as France,” reveals Mmetla Masire. “It is a country that is semi-arid with large desert areas and has been impacted negatively by climate change. Yet, despite these challenges, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is able to provide water utility services to 2.5 million people, almost the entire population of the country.”  A parastatal business, WUC had spent the vast majority of its 50-year history (up to 2009) delivering water to customers in cities and large towns and to local authorities that was then distributed directly to customers in villages.   “And it was indeed a very profitable model,” adds Masire, whose tenure in the office

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United Millers

Feeding the Future United Millers is catering to Kenya’s growing population by producing quality foodstuffs and supporting local farmers, the company now seeking to expand its range and reach   Writer: Tom Wadlow  |  Project Manager: Lewis Bush Lake Victoria – one of the African Great Lakes named by explorer John Hanning Speke who became the first Briton to document it in 1858.   The largest lake in Africa and chief reservoir of the Nile, it was the source of this river that Speke was trying to find when he discovered the 68,000-square-kilomotere basin. Much of it lies in Uganda, and the city of Kisumu represents an important port location for transport, tourism and other commercial endeavours.   It is here where Sunil Shah decided to set up food manufacturer United Millers in 1977.   Identifying not only a business opportunity but a growing need for the community and country, the now MD explains: “Kisumu is the third-largest town in Kenya, and there was no modern milling facility in the lake region back then.   “Also, the demand for flour and other products was increasing due to a rising population, and this inspired me to start United Millers. We celebrate 42 years this October – it has been a tough journey and has required constant focus and attention, but it has been extremely rewarding.”  Speaking about Kenya’s wider modernisation, Shah adds: “Industrialisation is continuing but not at the pace we saw in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.   “This is partly due to a growing number of imported products coming in from places such

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Uganda Railways Corporation

Reviving Railways Uganda Railways Corporation is relaunching passenger and freight routes in a bid to revitalise a once forgotten form of transport    Writer: Tom Wadlow  |  Project Manager: Josh Mann Trains are starting to bounce back in Uganda.   Playing second fiddle to heavily favoured highways over the course of 20-plus years, the country’s rail network is embarking on a revitalisation journey having previously received just two percent of transport funding.    And there is abundant opportunity to make a quick impact. Uganda’s total developed rail network covers 1,250 kilometres, but only 265 kilometres are currently serviceable due to abandonment or closure.   Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) is in charge of the ambitious revamping exercise, the Corporation currently home to 14 locomotives, 1,317 freight wagons and 15 passenger coaches.   For Managing Director Charles Kateeba, it is an opportunity to fast-track development of an industry he has long held a passion for.   “It all started from my love of manufacturing and engineering,” he recalls. “When I was doing my degree at the Zaporozhye Machine Building Institute in Ukraine, I discovered that Uganda had contracted a German company to set up a modern central railway workshop.   “I thought it would give me an opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills in the process of railway maintenance, including general overhauls and rebuilds, upgrades and possible new equipment assembly or manufacture.   “Therefore, on completion of my course, I applied for a job and I was taken on as a Trainee Production Engineer in 1984. I grew through the ranks to become Managing Director in 2013.” 

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RMD Kwikform 2019

Supporting the New Generation RMD Kwikform represents a new breed of resilient, reliable and robust supplier to South Africa’s construction industry, evidenced by results on the ground and new thought leadership activity   Writer: Tom Wadlow  |  Project Manager: Eddie Clinton “Our country has massive potential. We are a diverse nation, rich in natural resources, strategically positioned on the globe and home to breathtaking nature.”   Dirk Odendaal is a stout optimist. Based in Centurion and Director of the South African division of global construction industry supplier RMD Kiwkform, he recognises the urgent need for the nation to start building again.    “In order to take this country to its full potential infrastructure needs to be developed,” Odendaal continues, speaking a year on from his last conversation with Africa Outlook. “As a supplier of formwork and scaffolding solutions, RMD Kwikform offers an opportunity to be directly involved in South Africa’s growth.  “But this will be a long-term process, as our construction industry is wounded. Large construction companies are facing penalties imposed on them following collusive actions stemming from the 2010 FIFA World Cup infrastructure development, and some will not survive.  “As a result, the government had to focus on maintenance of infrastructure as opposed to new development – only the absolutely necessary and highest priority projects are currently going ahead.”  While the construction sector establishment continues to face strong headwinds, the opportunity for a new generation of contractors and suppliers has emerged, which is the root of Odendaal’s optimistic outlook.   “RMD has been quick to respond to our external environment and

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Pindulo VDM

nder an adventurous leadership team, Pindulo VDM is building on a rich heritage by providing an integrated supply chain solution for clients across the length and breadth of South Africa

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Orange Sierra Leone : Connecting Communities

Globally renowned telco Orange has been present in Sierra Leone for just three years, yet it has already firmly stamped an innovative footprint on the country and its telecoms industry

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Diasporic Empowerment 10 years in the making, Mukuru has risen from a small concept African startup into a mobile money marvel of migration   Writer: Jonathan Dyble  |  Project Manager: Sam Love “The hyperinflation period endured by Zimbabwe in 2008 and 2009 witnessed many people outside the country attempting to send money home to loved ones, a process that was characterised by a lot of friction at every step.  “There were swathes of Zimbabweans on the African continent who had sacrificed an immense amount personally to join the diaspora in search of economic opportunities; who were looking for a safe, convenient, simple and quick way to remit funds home to their family and friends.  “Given that they often had limited access to formal financial services, were structurally under-serviced and/or unbanked, they often had to resort to informal methods of sending money home that were unregulated, lacked transparency in terms of price and speed and had a lot of opportunity cost. They often had to take days off work and incur costs in getting to a central point to pay in cash, challenges that were then mirrored by their recipients.  What Andy Jury is referring to is the backstory behind Mukuru.  “Our founders were in this same boat,” he adds, “and what started out as a desire to iron out personal wrinkles, in getting money home to their friends and family, morphed into a realisation that there was a massive business opportunity if we could build a simple, secure, rapid means of affordably being able to send money.”  A remittances-led

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Mabiza Resources

A Nous for Nickel Owed to extensive feasibility studies and continual investment, Mabiza Resources Ltd is edging ever closer to capitalising on the prize that is the Munali Nickel Mine   Writer:  Jonathan Dyble  |  Project Manager: Donovan Smith “Zambia for a long time has been talking about diversification away from copper mining. It’s what we should be doing as a mineral rich country; the mines here have been in operation since the early 1900s and are now reaching exhaustion.   “It’s time to take a risk and plunge into something different, something more exciting.”  A career in mining wasn’t the original plan for Matthew Banda, the voice behind the opening statement.  Having been accepted by the University of Zambia to study engineering, chance had it that his roommate had opted for the same path and subject area but was honing his niche specifically for the mining sector. With 24-seven access to his roommate’s books, Banda quickly developed a keen interest in mining engineering, laying the foundations for an illustrious, prolonged career.  “That was 26 years ago now, and I can safely say that I have no regrets in selecting this vocation as my career of choice,” he affirms. “The journey has not been easy, but I have more than enjoyed the vast majority of it.”   The latter half of this quarter century has seen Banda remain stationed 80 kilometres south of the Zambian capital of Lusaka, initially having joined Albidion Zambia Limited (AZL) in 2007 as a senior engineer during the development of Munali Nickel Mine.   “I was part

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Linkage Assurance

Awakening an Industry Offering first-class, modern, bespoke indemnity products, Linkage Assurance is tapping into the vast potential of Nigeria’s insurance market   Writer: Jonathan Dyble  |  Project Manager: Sam Love Africa’s insurance market has been described as a sleeping giant for the majority of the 21st century. In more recent times, however, indications have begun to arise which suggest that the true potential of the industry is starting to stir.   A relatively stable economic environment, rising disposable incomes, a young population and an expanding middle class are all factors contributing towards the rising uptake of insurance in Africa. And while there is still a long way to go, it is undoubted that a wave of confidence is sweeping across the sector, evidenced by a closer look at Nigeria.  “I am quite optimistic about the direction of the Nigerian insurance industry,” states Daniel Braie, the Managing Director and CEO of Linkage Assurance.  “Indeed, the penetration level of Nigerian insurance is still below one percent, and when compared with other markets it is a far cry of the potentials that are abound, especially in the retail market.  “Yet there are a number of country-wide efforts geared towards increasing uptake in the form of strategic global partnerships, active public-private collaboration, the introduction of compulsory classes, and other plans which seek to improve the knowledge gap.”  The retail roadmap  A company that has been an ever-present provider in Nigerian insurance since its inception in 1991, Linkage Assurance has established a truly extensive portfolio of bespoke products.   These range from conventional insurance products to

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Irvine’s Group : Empowering Entrepreneurs 

Irvine’s Group continues to facilitate the growth of local chicken industries across several Sub-Saharan African countries thanks to its support of local growers through a one-stop shop supplier service.

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Socioeconomic Salvation in the DRC Dismantling the negative stigma surrounding palm oil, Feronia is demonstrating how plantations can be the economic and social lifeblood of communities when they are run in the right way  Writer: Jonathan Dyble  |  Project Manager: Matt Cole-Wilkin When we acquired Plantations et Huileries du Congo Sa (PHC) in 2009, its future was in jeopardy having fallen into a state of severe disrepair after decades of disruption and a lack of care.   “Without substantial investment the business would have collapsed, with thousands of workers losing their jobs, tens of millions of dollars of wages not paid into the local economies and none of the social services which exist today would have survived.   “The business’s key revenue generating asset, its trees, were beyond the end of their productive life; the mills which turn fruit from the trees into the oil were mostly non-functional; none of the facilities we inherited had been maintained in 20 years and the surrounding roads had largely ceased to be passable.”  Tasked with replanting three million trees, replacing numerous mills, repairing hospitals, schools, roads, utilities infrastructure, and attracting the investment necessary to do so, the past decade has been a challenging one for Feronia to say the least.  The opening statements come from Xavier de Carniere, CEO and Executive Director of the company that claimed responsibility for revitalising PHC’s Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka palm oil plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He continues: “We were constrained on all fronts, be it financially or the difficult operating environment. The workforce, for

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Malawi Reenergised Formed out of an amend to the Electricity Act in 2016, EGENCO represents a paradigm shift in the country’s electricity sector, a move which is facilitating welcome development and investment   Writer: Tom Wadlow  |  Project Manager: Ben Weaver  Malawi has been lagging behind in power generation and access for a long time, and I was motivated by the prospect that I could be central to future electricity development. “I am excited to see the sustainability of our generation and to help increase capacity in the country. There is much more that we can do as a nation to ensure that we are adequately supplied with power.” For William Liabunya, becoming CEO of EGENCO was an opportunity to fulfil a personal ambition and revolutionise Malawi’s energy sector for the benefit of its people. A mining engineer in the Ministry of Energy and Mining for six years, he moved to ESCOM, the state-owned utility which once monopolised the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Malawi before a landmark amendment to the Electricity Act unbundled the sector. “The current state of the energy sector in Malawi is both exciting and challenging at the same time,” Liabunya adds. “It is exciting because the government has opened up the power market so that independent power producers (IPPs) can generate power and sell to ESCOM, which is now responsible for just transmission and distribution.” EGENCO, while still government-owned, is one of these new entities able to sell power to the grid. Formed in 2016 as a separation from ESCOM, the company is embarking on a 15-year strategic

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ECG Engineering

Consulting Across Continents From its bases in Perth, Brisbane and Manila, ECG Engineering is imparting reputed Australian expertise on multifaceted projects both at home and abroad, especially in West Africa   Writer: Tom Wadlow  |  Project Manager: Tom Cullum    West Africa’s mining industry is picking up some momentum.   According to Research and Markets’ Mining in West Africa 2019 report, West African nations exported $16.1 billion of minerals in 2017, up some 26 percent on the previous year.   Gold is a particularly promising subsector. The region was accountable for 9.4 percent of global supply in 2016, while almost three quarters of all exploration projects here are focused on this precious metal.   Foreign direct investment is vital to this ongoing development of West Africa’s mining sector.   Several large multinational corporations are committed to large projects, while foreign expertise is also being utilised effectively to ensure developments are executed to the highest international standards.   Enter Australia’s ECG Engineering.   Provider of a wide range of services to the mining, utilities and materials handling industries around the globe, its expertise covers the likes of feasibility studies, system studies and audits, design, project management, procurement, construction management and site support.   It is a relatively new enterprise and, for Principle Consultant and Director Geoff Bailey, represented another opportunity to build up an enterprise from scratch.   “I am an electrical engineer and have been involved in the mining industry for 40 years,” he says.    “After owning and running BEC Engineering for 18 years and being bought out by a larger company (Cardno), it was time to

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AutoTrader South Africa

Driving Digital Renowned as South Africa’s most trusted motoring marketplace for 27 years, AutoTrader SA is moving into an exciting, new, transformative eraWriter: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Josh Hyland When it comes to ecommerce, Africa has been highlighted as a world of opportunity.  Owed to internet access, education, logistical and other development-centric challenges, the continent has often experienced lag in the way of embracing new technologies in the past. Yet the tide has begun to shift in recent years.  According to Ovum’s Africa Digital Outlook 2019 report, for example, data access and mobile banking are both on the rise, while Africa is also seeing expansion in 4G and even movement towards 5G in some cases.  It is no surprise, therefore, that a number of agile organisations and early-adopters have experienced great benefit when readily aligning their own capabilities with this evolving landscape.  “In any industry, ever-changing buying behaviour is a challenge,” explains AutoTrader South Africa (SA) CEO George Mienie. “It is clear, however, that the internet is providing transparent and accessible information for buyers.  “As a result, a big chunk of purchasing journeys are now completed online, and this is why we became a fully digital business in 2017.”  Having been at the helm of AutoTrader SA since 2007, Mienie himself is the architect behind what has been an extremely successful digital transformation.  Owed to both recent progressions in Africa’s technological backdrop and the company’s own marketing nous, the enterprise’s reach has grown 20-fold since introducing its online operations and publishing the final copy of AutoTrader SA

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Atlas Tower Group

The Connectivity Catalyst Since entering the South African market in 2013, Atlas Tower has been driving wireless connectivity across the country, the firm looking to expand its reach both here and beyond   Writer: Tom Wadlow  Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki Mobile phones represent a lifeline for many consumers across Africa.   Far beyond simply a communication device, they are often the primary channel to get online and a critical tool to access various life-enhancing services such as finance, education, health and utilities.   Research from trade association GSMA repeatedly underlines these assertions. In 2017, it recorded 444 million unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa, a penetration rate of 44 percent, up from just 25 percent at the start of 2010.   This is forecast to reach 52 percent, or 634 million subscriptions, by 2025, growing at a solid annual rate of 4.6 percent.   Perhaps even more illuminating is the prediction that data usage across the region will grow sevenfold between now and 2024, driven by a young consumer base which is triggering a profound shift in mobile engagement patterns.   These trends translate into an enticing prospect for wireless infrastructure specialists such as Atlas Tower.   Originally founded in the US by current CEO Nathan Foster in 2007, he identified the opportunity Africa presented and the role his company could play in catalysing economic development for the betterment of its citizens.   “Africa’s significant population, intense mobile subscription growth and data penetration rates are a key driver in our business,”  he explains.   “With more than a billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa, penetration rates still relatively

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