While Petro Ivoire has a moderate market share, it ranks as the third largest company behind oil distribution giants Shell and Total. .
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s largest city is also the home of the second largest port in Africa. Overseen by the Autonomous Port of Abidjan (PAA), the 3rd largest operator of merchandise through the port is SIMAT (Societe Ivorienne de Manutention et Transit). SIMAT is the first sub Saharan company to list on the Euronext stock exchange, making it the first such company’s stock to be quoted in Paris.
The recent civil unrest in Côte d’Ivoire was especially hard on the activities of the port of Abidjan. According to Stephane Eholie, CEO of SIMAT,
“From November 2010 to the end of April 2011, the transit/port sector especially, but also the auxiliary transport sector as a whole and all related activities were blocked for six months and we were not able to work. We suffered a great amount of financial losses. Yet, Ivorians considered themselves lucky to be alive and were thankful to God, as well as ready for a new start. I truly believe this country is beautiful. Activities were resumed overnight, once the post-electoral situation was solved. Compared to last year’s performance, our current achievements probably amount to 80-90%.”
But the new government of Alassane Ouattara, which is backed by France, the aUS, the UN, and the international banks, seems capable of ending the fifteen years of political instability in the country, and restoring Côte d’Ivoire’s place as the major exporter of West Africa. If this is achieved, says Eholie, then “The future seems bright to me.” This is because, Eholie explains,
“One of the main drivers of national economy in Côte d'Ivoire is the port. It reflects the strength of the economy and in that sense can be considered to be its very heart. Our visibility is now better and if the safety issue can be eradicated, it will definitely continue to grow. Trust has been restored, just like Côte d'Ivoire’s image, in Africa as much as in the rest of the world. The government is doing its job. Entrepreneurs are working hard as well. Fear is almost completely gone. Adding up all those reasons, 2012 should be a glorious year for SIMAT and the main actors of the economy in Côte d'Ivoire.”
The only problem now facing SIMAT, Eholie says, is lack of sufficient investment capital to take advantage of the peace.
You know, in our business, capital and access to resources are both very important. The main problem is, in my mind, that we have limited resources despite a considerably high interest rate… . The difference between multinationals and us is that our access to resources isn’t as great. If only there can be a will and a way to meet our expectations, I can assure you that we can show the world what Ivorian entrepreneurs are made of.”
After all, says Eholie,
“Côte d'Ivoire…is a considerably rich country with a great amount of resources. In its current state, it is quite conducive to doing business in Côte d'Ivoire. Now is the best time to take action. Investors must keep in mind that there is money to be made if they will just believe in the country and its people who have great potential. We must not forget that Côte d'Ivoire is an locomotive of the West African economy.”