ECM provides engineering services to mining industry in Portuguese-speaking Mozambique.
João Esteves (JE): ECM originated nearly three years ago, financed by three large Portuguese companies that decided to invest in countries that spoke the language: Cape Verde, Angola, and, of course, Mozambique. As a company, we provide a full range of engineering services from civil construction to public works and the environment. ECM has several divisions: geology and geotechnics, bridges and structures, infrastructure, environment, and hydraulics. We have built a solid rapport within the market and are continuing to build the EMC name within the country. Working with state projects as well as large international players, such as Vale, is a testament to our reliability and quality of service. At the moment, Vale represents 80% of our income but we intend to continue growing. In terms of the region, unfortunately all operations in Cape Verde were shut down due to a lack of financing, but we do have a sister company in Angola. ECM has a bright future in Mozambique.
In light of the recent downturn, what are your expectations in terms of growth for the end of 2014 and 2015?
JE: The softening of coal prices definitely caused a slow-down in the mining industry. The downturn was greater than 50% of what the price was two years ago. Several companies left the country, including Rio Tinto, which sold the Benga coal mine to International Coal Ventures Private Limited (ICVL) for US$50 million. Vale is considering downsizing as well. But the reason why I was brought to the country five months ago was to address this problem and I am currently looking to maintain our current client-base and continue to expand it.
We have been able to stay involved with Vale in different regions of Mozambique because we can provide various engineering services, from super-structures to hydraulics, geology and geophysics. This certainly makes ECM unique. We need to guarantee large contracts to assure ECM´s future and our primary target for this outcome is securing partnerships and joint ventures in Mozambique. Such collaborations will certainly be our focus for the foreseeable future.
How does a local player like ECM compete with the likes of international giants, such as SGS and Golder Associates? What are the advantages of being local company?
JE: ECM prides itself in providing outstanding service, backed by quality people who are able to fully support the project we are working on. Our experience in the country ensures local knowledge as well as international support and that is where we make the difference. We also have joint ventures with all of the major players in the Maputo area and are always looking to develop more.
Could you speak of the environmental standards in Mozambique and how they have developed through-out the years?
JE: Mozambique has a long way to go with the environment and this is a serious problem. Many players in the country are light years away from reaching any kind of solid environmental standard and their main focus is financial; the environmental aspect is often ignored. Many companies are doing horrible things to the envi-ronment. ECM has a strong division focused on the environment and we work closely with international environmental laws, given that many of our clients are foreign. These major companies bring high standards into the county and ensure all of their employees are aware of them and apply them. Vale, for example, constantly holds meetings in which people are trained on environmental upkeeping.
How does ECM overcome the shortage of skilled labor in Mozambique?
JE: Most people in the country are simply not qualified to do the work that ECM requires. At the moment we only have nine people working in Mozambique. The rest of our staff works remotely form Portugal. It is difficult to bring staff into the country because for every Portuguese engineer, we must employ 9 locals and this poses a huge challenge for ECM. Worldwide we have 92 people working for the company. Ideally, I would like to have a solid work team for each division of the company. We do provide training, given that expats cost a lot of money, and we can certainly train people to do the job in the country. The goal is to give them a positive environment to work in, so that they will work with us for the long-term.
What will be ECM´s main growth drivers over the next 2 to 3 years?
JE: At the moment our main focus is the oil and gas sector given the millions of dollars in investment that the industry represents. We are hoping to acquire our largest tendering to date, with a project of one to two million dollars.
Mozambique is a country with a high level of bureaucracy, but we have developed all the right connections to succeed within it. We are certainly looking at a bright future for the company if we continue to secure new projects.
This interview was part of the research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2015. To participate in this report, please contact Sharon Saylor at email@example.com.