“The hardest part is to have the land”
TAR: What challenges have you faced in setting up? The installation here started in 2012 as a construction project, and because of difficulties with the soil we had to build pillars and it took us some more time. In April 2015, the construction was officially finished. […] We started production progressively but went very quickly. We started with a 0% market share and in April 2016 we overpassed 50% of the market share in the country. Our competitor, Lafarge, which has a very good brand name, has been here for 50 years as a monopoly but now they have about 30%. We have a capacity of 1.5m tonnes per annum […]. Today we have more or less 700 people here and I am very proud to say they are 99% Cameroonians. If you take the cement plant plus the jetty, it is an investment of more than $200m. We have the most modern machines, which are German ones and they are not so very cheap. Our market share is floating between 47-50%, and we are only making one product. With the four producers, we have about 4m tonnes of capacity. We asked the government to stop imports of cement in January 2016 and now we are self-sufficient in cement production. The market is not so huge […] we say the realistic number is 2.8m tonnes with maybe 200,000tn of flexibility for government projects. So it means we have 1m tonnes of overcapacity already. So that is not enough because we are planning to open our new cement plant in Yaoundé with more or less the same capacity, maybe 1m tonnes.
How advanced is the Yaoundé project? It started about a year ago. But the hardest part is to have officially the land and to know who are the land owners. In this country, it is very tricky. For the same land, you have maybe three or four official owners […]. With these delays, we could be operational in late 2018. Our competitors – or, as we say, our colleagues – are planning their own expansions, and in two years’ time we could be having 7m tonnes or more. The market is not growing so fast and we think it could be something like 5-8% per year. The 1.5m tonnes is a theoretical capacity and I would say we are producing and selling 1.3m tonnes. Cement producers have to import raw materials, there is an energy deficit and the market is already saturated, so what is the strategy of companies seeking to boost production? We have started to export already. We have built one warehouse on the border areas and we will have maybe a couple of others. We have already opened a couple of markets in neighbouring countries.
“We have more or less 700 people here and I’m proud to say 99% are Cameroonians”
What is your client base like? Today, we have three distribution channels. The main one is the wholesalers. We are a young company and have not had time to develop […] and they represent 80% of sales. The other channel is the constructors, the project guys. We were handicapped before because we did not have bulk trucks. We have 200 of our own trucks here that were imported from Nigeria, representing 20% of all the distribution we are making. And now we have our first 10 bulk trucks. The third channel is the export channel, and we started that three weeks ago. […] The ideal situation would be 55-60% distributors and the rest split by constructors and export. Interview by Reinnier Kazé in Douala and Marshall Van Valen