Gagan Gupta answered our questions. The President of Olam Gabon hints at the Singaporean group’s ambitions and talks about the partnership with the group Vincent Bolloré.
AFRICAN BUSINESS: Does the New Owendo International Port reflect a desire on Olam’s part to become a long-term player in Africa’s ports, despite the fierce competition?
Gagan Gupta: Logistics and agri-food remain the core of our business, and we have not specialised in containers until now. We sought to meet a requirement in order to facilitate our exports. Originally, this was a Public Private Partnership between the Gabonese State, AFC and Olam because we are primarily interested in agricultural logistics. We intend to export the wood that comes from the Nkok Economic Zone. This strategy of port development on the continent is a new one for Olam, but we can point to other similar projects in countries where we already have a solid base. We are not ruling out becoming a port operator on the continent if we find there is interest, as ports and logistics are fundamentally linked by their nature. We already have experience in this area in Australia and Ukraine. I think that we will be able to play our cards right despite the competition from other port stakeholders. How long have we been waiting for Kribi port?
AFRICAN BUSINESS: What were the terms of the agreement you made with the Vincent Bolloré group?
Gagan Gupta: It is a commercial deal between Olam and the Bolloré group, with the agreement of the State of course, although it was not directly involved. In terms of the conditions of our agreement, I can tell you that Bolloré invested in NOIP but the contractual terms have not yet been made public. We launched negotiations a while ago with the Vincent Bolloré group, which is a family company that is very well established in Africa. In addition, we work with this group in a number of African countries, as we currently have operations in 28 countries on the continent.
You know, it’s difficult for two operators to share the same traffic, even though Owendo isn’t Singapore or Rotterdam port. We have combined our respective expertise to optimise the port’s capacities so that everyone wins. We are benefitting from Bolloré’s expertise in container management, and for their part, Bolloré has access to an additional platform. Moreover, in Africa ports generally receive public financing, and in this specific case the State has “won” a modern port without spending any money, which is rare enough to be noteworthy.
AFRICAN BUSINESS: How will Gabonese consumers directly and indirectly benefit from the New Owendo International Port?
Gagan Gupta: The New Owendo International Port has already lead to the creation of 500 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs, and over 80% of the employees are Gabonese. There will also be a significant impact on the entire ecosystem, in particular given the increase in subcontractors who also employee Gabonese people.
In terms of the Nkok Economic Zone that we manage, it enables Gabon to become more economically competitive. The new infrastructure created will act as a level for development too. Products will be exported through the new port and more generally, by reducing logistics prices, the population will benefit from decreased transport costs, which will have an impact on prices in time.
By Marie-France Réveillard.