Interview: “East Africa is a region with a lot of potential
What experience does Bodo Möller Chemie have in Africa and how does East Africa differ from other regions on the continent?
Volker Oehl: We have been present in Africa for over ten years and today have branches in South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and Nigeria. With our hubs, we have built a strong distribution and logistics network over the years and serve the most important markets in Africa. All local staff are technically qualified, with experience in the paint and coatings industry. In East Africa, our sales office and warehouses in Nairobi advise and supply customers in the sub-Saharan region. Kenya is our hub for the neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. East Africa is a region with a lot of potential, very dynamic and with fewer historically grown customer-supplier relationships than in Maghreb, Egypt or South Africa.
When describing the East African market, what are the challenges and potentials?
Oehl: East Africa is not a closed economic area as we know it from Europe. The market is more complex due to trade regulations and exchange rate fluctuations, for example, and the infrastructure is at a different level. East African customers have high quality requirements on the level of European manufacturers. The challenge lies in economic formulation costs, as there is high competitive pressure from all regions. Many suppliers from Asia have long since recognised the potential in Africa. Customers are becoming more demanding and increasingly value good service in terms of technical support, qualified distribution as well as logistics and delivery reliability. Growth prospects are above average, there is a lot of catching up to do. Direct customer relationships are essential, so a local presence is key to this.
What differences do you have to face with your activities in East Africa?
Oehl: Our local teams for CASE in Europe, the Middle East and Africa are in constant exchange with each other. Experience and knowledge regarding raw materials and formulations are proactively shared for the benefit of our customers. The CASE team in South Africa provides technical and logistical support to the activities in Kenya as part of the Sub-Saharan region. East Africa differs from Europe in that it is more dynamic. Decision-making processes are much shorter, modern formulations are introduced more quickly than in Europe.
How do you rate the situation regarding binders and additives in the African paints, coatings and adhesives industry?
Oehl: Despite supply uncertainties and rising costs for raw materials and logistics, there is great competitive pressure. The unstoppable trend towards environmentally friendly technologies is now leading to more frequent holistic consideration of the ecological footprint. Regulations based on U.S. or European standards are becoming increasingly important in Africa.