Cote d’Ivoire’s mining potential attracts investment in local explosives manufacturing.
JJK: EPC Cote d’Ivoire is a subsidiary of EPC Groupe, which is a French company founded in 1893 and specialized in explosives and blasting services. We started our activities in Cote d’Ivoire this year through a joint venture with Sodemi, which has invested in EPC Cote d’Ivoire. In Cote d’Ivoire, our activities have two sites. The first is a warehouse of stock for our explosive products. We are in the process of constructing our second site in the country, which will be a factory for the manufacturing of explosives. The factory will be finished by the end of 2013. As for our services in Cote d’Ivoire, we have opted for the sale of explosives, and drilling and blasting for quarrying and mining.
EPC Groupe is present in more than 20 countries in Europe and Africa. In Africa we are present in Morocco, Senegal, Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, Congo and now in Cote d’Ivoire. In addition to the offices that we have in these countries, we also sell explosives in Chad, Mali and Mauritania.
What were the key motivating factors that brought EPC to invest in a factory in Cote d’Ivoire?
JJK: EPC has been looking at Cote d’Ivoire for over two years. We know that there is very good geological potential here that has not yet been exploited. With this perspective, we saw it was a good moment to enter the market. There are several mines now in operation and large iron ore projects in development. EPC anticipated this development and the government’s objectives to exploit its mineral potential and decided to invest in starting up operations here.
As you continue to ramp up your operations in the country, how do you plan to increase the services you offer to the local market?
JJK: EPC supplies to mines, quarries and also to companies that build roads, though our major clients are the mines. We have started our operations with the sale of explosives. The second phase of our startup will be the construction of our factory and the launching of our drilling and blasting services. We plan to have machines on the ground before the end of the year. As of January 2014 we will be ready to sell emulsions and also to offer drilling and blasting services.
What is the role that your Cote d’Ivoire operations will play in EPC’s overall regional activities in Western Africa?
JJK: EPC has two other factories in Africa: a factory for the fabrication of explosives and detonators in Morocco and a factory in Guinea. The factory that we are starting up in Cote d’Ivoire will be the height of our technology. We have developed new technology for manufacturing explosives and the first country to benefit from this will be Cote d’Ivoire. We will be manufacturing emulsions so that the product that is made is not yet explosive when it leaves the factory. In terms of security, this is a great advantage for the country.
Our plan is to make Cote d’Ivoire our regional base. As of this December, we will have our mining division installed here. Our factory’s capacity will be large so that we can not only serve Cote d’Ivoire but also service the markets of Mali, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.
What has enabled EPC to start up your manufacturing operations in Cote d’Ivoire within such a short timeline?
JJK: We know that to meet the needs of miners, we must be quick. When we receive a bid for our services, we must respond rapidly and deliver in two to three months. We build our factories as kits, so we are able to import them and install them on the sites. This enables us to gain time. When we built our factory in Guinea before we had this technology, it took us one year to construct the facility. Now we can have an operational factory in five months.
Has the company benefited from fiscal advantages from the government for bringing investment into the country?
JJK: EPC worked with the CEPICI to set up our agreement in line with the investment code. The process was quick. We will benefit from considerable fiscal advantages for the next 15 years; we will not have to pay taxes on profits and on the level of imports we will benefit from customs duties reduced to 60%. We will also not be paying VAT on the factory that we are importing.
What challenges have you encountered in setting up your business in Cote d’Ivoire?
JJK: Generally in a country when we start our operations, it takes time to receive authorization. Luckily in Cote d’Ivoire this was not the case and we received our authorization to start up our activities without much delay. Our project was welcomed by the Ministry and Direction of mines. It is remarkable that since our installation this year, we will have our factory in operation by the end of the year.
What is your outlook for the growth of EPC in Cote d’Ivoire in the next two to three years?
JJK: In the next two to three years, we plan to offer all of our expertise here in Cote d’Ivoire. In Morocco and Guinea, we are already able to exploit 100% of the mines, from the drilling to explosive manufacturing. We want to also do this for Cote d’Ivoire. We want miners to know that when they come to Cote d’Ivoire, they have a company that can help them to develop their mines and offer all of these services.
Today in Cote d’Ivoire all of the explosive products are imported from either Ghana or Europe. We want to make our products here so that miners will not have concerns about procurement or authorization.
This interview was conducted as part of the research conducted on African mining jurisdictions by Global Business Reports (GBR) as part of our partnership with African Mining Indaba LLC. The aim of this partnership is the production of the single most comprehensive intelligence report on the continent’s mineral sector. The Official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide, will be launched next February 2014, as the only official publication providing country-specific information at Africa’s top mining event, the 2014 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba™ held in Cape Town, South Africa.