Bernabé discusses the West African playing field for specialized suppliers.
Can you begin by introducing us to Bernabé and the role that the mining industry has played in your activities throughout your long history of operations in West Africa?
YM: Bernabé has existed for more than 60 years in West Africa. We are specialized in the sale and distribution of industrial hardware, technical equipment, building materials, industrial steel, construction material and machinery. Descours and Cabaud founded the company in 1951, then in 2002 through a consolidated regional acquisition it become a Yeshi Group company. Today we are deployed in countries across West and Central Africa, with operations in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo and Gabon. We sell products to mining, construction sector, as well as projects for civil works and industries in countries and regions we operate. Mostly we are supplying security equipment to the mining industry. We are very accustomed to accompanying all mining consumers in countries we are involved in with our expertise. We have supplied materials to the main mining companies in West Africa, from Rio Tinto and BHP, to IAMGOLD, Randgold, Newcrest, SMI and Cluff Gold. We also work with service providers to the industry like CMA Mining.
Speaking specifically to Senegal, which saw its first commercial gold mine open in 2009, how do you work within the country’s nascent mining sector?
MR: In Senegal, we do not just work with gold mines, but also with many different metals and minerals, especially in the southeast region of the country. We have experience and expertise providing supplies to several mining domains, such as welding and drilling. We have specialized technicians who are able to accompany all the large consumers for the mining industry. We take projects from the source and we study them along with the miners and mining service providers to determine how to accompany them up until the end of their projects.
How does Senegal operate as a strategic location for Bernabé’s activities in the region?
MR: Senegal is a regional hub, in comparison to Mali, Guinea and Mauritania. The country has a smooth administrative framework, which allows for the possibility to import and export thanks to administrative policies that are easy to understand and respected. There is reasonably quick and easy access to goods and human resources, in comparison to other ECOWAS countries that are developing.
As a diversified supplier of specialized industrial equipment, how would you characterize the state of the regional market for mining-specific equipment procurement?
YM: Bernabé was founded 60 years ago on the basis of supporting natural resource-based industries in Africa, working in sectors such as mining and oil and gas. Bernabé’s value proposition in the mining sector is something that you are not going to find in Anglophone Africa. In Anglophone Africa, our kind of boutique has not existed. Companies entering into countries like Ghana and Nigeria had to do their own procurement and sourcing. They could not rely on local retailers with a state agenda to support such industries with are sector specific, especially in line with extraction or working with raw materials.
Since most mining companies are coming from Anglophone areas, they are not initially aware that on the ground in Francophone countries you have a company like Bernabé that is completely specialized. Most of our salesforce for our industrial equipment, water equipment, and steel lines are engineers. When mining companies come into a country, they will bring everything they can with them. If they have any problems, however, they have to wait to fly it in new parts. If mining companies knew that niche businesses like ours existed, they would have to procure much less.
Given the mining boom we have seen across West Africa in recent years, what is your strategy to penetrate into the mining sectors of Anglophone Africa?
YM: Our business model is based on expanding into these areas. We are seriously considering entering into Ghana and Nigeria, as we are constantly requested to go into these and other new countries. For example, we are supplying cross boarder clients in Ghana, Mali, Liberia, and Congo from neighboring countries because we do not have existing Bernabe’s in their country.
As lead times and equipment import can be key challenges for the sector, what is Bernabé’s strategy to optimize your procurement networks?
YM: Bernabé has 900 suppliers in Europe and thousands more around the world, between Asia, America and South America. Our core proposition is that we have logistical bases in Europe and Asia which permit us to bring in specialty products or parts regardless of weight and size to a market within days of a request.
What is Bernabé’s vision to continue growing within the mining sectors of West Africa?
MR: We are a local partner for mining companies and we can offer services on the ground. We have already started to grow our mining business and we hope to see our numbers increase in the medium term. We have adapted to the economic context and developed our niche, especially in the mining sector.
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.