Interview: Stefan Heeb

What is the current demand for cement in Côte d’Ivoire and how are producers responding?

STEFAN HEEB: Cement producers are currently in a favourable position in Côte d’Ivoire. The myriad infrastructure projects planned by the government will become a driving force behind further direct and indirect private investment in the country. Cement consumption in Côte d’Ivoire stands at 150 kg per capita, per year – a rate that is enough to arouse interest in the industry but still lags behind that of North African nations such as Morocco, where consumption reaches 500-600 kg per capita. However, if these infrastructure projects move forward as planned, there is the potential to reach these levels in the coming years.

To meet the growing demand, various cement producers have made concrete arrangements to increase production capacity in the short term. Our business outlook for Côte d’Ivoire remains positive, with major growth prospects coming from the public infrastructure and real estate sectors.

How are authorities and operators working together to develop the construction industry?

HEEB: The government has played its role properly by instituting a global-standard legislative framework that favours loyal competition. It has linked operators with technical commissions charged with ensuring compliance with norms, and incentivised cooperation between stakeholders by enabling them to recommend eventual improvements in an effort to ensure that all products available in the market are in line with international standards. This will inevitably improve investors’ confidence and trust in the market.

It is of paramount importance to ensure this adequate, rigorous and competent application of standards, in which the government – through its inclusion of international firms within the technical control commission – has indeed, played its part. Given the modernisation of the industry, our role as international investors is to provide the local market with modern operational techniques, innovation, and cost-effective processes via the transfer of knowledge and technology throughout the construction value chain.

Given the rate of urbanisation felt by many countries in the region, Côte d’Ivoire needs to put in place an urban plan, suitable for its needs, that ensures that all construction projects are preceded by infrastructure projects – providing road access, sanitation, and access to electricity and water. From our perspective, the development of the social housing segment is a collective effort, to which cement producers can contribute through training on building techniques, cost-cutting measures and industry know-how.

The government must provide the necessary building grounds for construction, and ensure that they are accessible and habitable. This, of course, is a learning process. We have seen the authorities taking recent measures to allocate land ready for construction. However, additional control structures or administrations – charged with the supervision of all actors in construction projects – should be instituted to ensure that all works are engendered with respect to health and safety standards; that waste-management techniques and recycling are applied; that continued training courses are provided and structured by professionals in the field; and that accreditation policies – which take into consideration the capacity of each actor and their human and physical assets – are put in place.

What factors must be considered when making decisions regarding cement export?

HEEB: The export of construction materials depends heavily on the competitiveness of the product abroad, while also considering the logistical costs. So the degree to which a country builds its transport network – such as rail, road or ports infrastructure – will determine the extent to which the commercialisation of