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Transport linking Uganda with development

Interview - November 27, 2014

The PM Communications team interviewed Mr. Patrick Katayi, Zonal Managing Director of Bolloré Africa Logistics, and asked him about the rebranding of Bolloré, and also about the logistics sector in the country. Mr. Katayi emphasized that Bolloré is the leading logistics company in the country, and highlighted the good measures taken by the government to improve the ease of doing business in Uganda.


Before knowing about Bolloré Africa Logistics Uganda we would like to know a little bit more about the person behind the company. At the end of the day in the logistics business “trust” matters.

In 2003, due to the financial crisis in the world, there was a recession in the employment market in Europe; and that is when I decided to go back to Africa. I started in DRC Katanga as a financial controller. Then I became the Finance Director for three years. It was a very beautiful working environment because the mining industry was booming. When I left, we had increased results, and financial indicators. At the end of 2012, I came to Uganda as Zone Managing Director for the Great Lakes region.

When everything was booming in Congo they sent you here.

Yes, because as an international group we have a policy for expatriates to be moved after some years. The fact that I had stayed in Congo for 9 years was exceptional because I had moved from Finance to Management. Otherwise, I would have left Congo much earlier. I will stay here in Uganda between 4 to 5 years.

What does the Great Lakes Region represent for Bolloré Africa Logistics?

In Africa we are divided in regions. We have the East, West, Central, North and Southern region. The Great lakes’ area is important for the East African region; Uganda and Rwanda are strategic countries and are full of development.

What does Uganda represent? It can be the logistic hub of the East African Community. How do you perceive the logistic environment in the country?

The logistics environment in Uganda remains strategic, although we have some challenges, like the fact that we are a landlocked country. This makes the cost of doing business higher. Also since our job is to ensure that our clients goods are delivered from one place to another, we need good accessible roads, this is still an issue, some being under developed however we know that the government is doing a lot to better the roads in the country.

Taxes are one of the challenges that makes the cost of doing business expensive. A cheaper option would be the railway network but it has a limited operation, however we know that government has a plan to invest and re develop the railway network alongside Kenya. We are hoping that this will happen soon. Finally, security is something that is paramount and it has been generally good but we have to address a few flaws. When you move cargo, you must be sure it is delivered safely and in time.

How is your relation with customs?

We have a strong relationship with customs because we are one of the best taxpayers in the country. Integrity and loyalty is one of our core
Values and we fully respect transparent regulations. We have received recognition and awards as ‘Best Taxpayers ’ several times.

Will the integration of customs in the East African Community help?

Yes the integration of customs through SCT (Single Customs Territory) will help the East African Community. There has been a big challenge between Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, and not only will SCT simplify the processes but also save time and generate savings for our customers.

Most trade goes by road. Is that right? How do you perceive efforts to address the road network gap?

Yes, it is right to say that most cargo goes by road. Infrastructure represents a significant a significant part of our business and looking at the volume of importation, 25% of cargo is linked to road construction projects. A lot of funds are being channeled to road constructions projects, and the government is working hard to improve our roads. Last week I went to the Albertine region, and roads network there is quite impressive.

Logistics makes money. How are you contributing to the development of critical areas of the economy?

One of the key areas critical to Uganda’s economy is the Agriculture sector. In a bid to support this sector, our Exports department handles export commodities like coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, and cocoa for our clients. As such, we have developed close relationships with UCDA (Uganda Coffee Development Authority) who share with us, on a monthly basis a statistical export report enabling us follow closely on what happens in the sector. We also have a lot of warehousing space for the storage of commodities.

How do you perceive the discovery of oil and gas?

The oil and gas sector remains one of the most important strategic areas for a logistics company. Having worked with the sector for the past 2 years, more activity in the oil industry is expected for 2017. One of my main goals when I was appointed as Zone Managing director was to develop a department to handle clients in the Oil & gas and Mining industry. We did enagage in a lot of business with the main oil and gas operators and suppliers in 2012, 2014 is expected to be a quiet year, because most of the preparational activities have been done. The Oil and Gas sector remains important because it will create a lot of indirect employment and opportunities, and will be a booming area for the next forty years. At the moment, we are not really focused in mining, as there are no significant developments.

What kind of relationships do you have with British companies?

We have worked with British companies like Tullow oil on a small scale and British American Tobacco to date on a larger scale. With our group’s large network of 250 subsidiaries worldwide and 45 in Africa, we have global and regional relationships with many of these companies.

How is this company contributing to the development of logistics for agriculture, natural resources, and power generation?

Our Company is well placed to handle any of our clients’ logistical requirements; with our huge network we have been able to link our clients to the rest of the world. We also have an advantage of being contacted easily by companies and have also defined a mapping of some strategic UK companies that need to do some sales in the UK and link here. We make sure to seize all opportunities that may arise in terms of logistics.

Do you do this with all other countries?

Yes we do.

What is your market share here?

Locally we are the leaders in the market, globally, 10%. Unlike Ivory Coast where the competition is minimal, East Africa presents a different market; it is very volatile because there are several players in the market. There is also an emphasis on the promotion of local companies and for a landlocked country like Uganda, we are faced with competition hence we strive to daily improve the quality of our service to maintain our position of No 1.

You decided to put the head office here and not in Rwanda. What makes this country unique?

Our revenue, assets, and staff are highest in Uganda therefore making, the Ugandan location strategic.

The government is empowering local companies. How do these companies empower you?

We have 410 employees in Uganda, including only 8 expatriates. 97% of my staff is Ugandan. 95% of our suppliers are local companies, many with whom we have a long relationship. We also have good relationships with our local competitors. I fully support the initiatives of the government, and our company feels it is a Ugandan one, not foreign having been here since 1968.

We spoke about logistics with many ministers. What is the future of this company? How is it going to evolve?

We are the fathers of logistics. We have many future plans to develop our equipment, renew our resources, continue to train our employees (we invest a lot in training), involve more in Corporate Social Responsibilities – (we have a dedicated department for that), emphasize our links with authorities, engage more with the oil and gas Industry and make sure the Bolloré brand is well known and represented - we definitely have the know-how to do that. We must maintain our position of the leading logistics company in Uganda.

How do you perceive government efforts to target more foreign investment?

Seeing the number of international investors in Uganda cements Government’s efforts of welcoming foreign investors into the country as there is emphasis on strengthening relations with foreign investors. As a French Company, we meet with the French ambassador who briefs us on their relationship with the government and this is extremely positive. It also intends to create a chamber of European companies in Uganda to interact closely with us and share. There is a bright future for Investors in Uganda who are always welcome. We have also seen an increase in the GDP, and that is positive too.

The government needs a diversified investment portfolio. I believe Uganda needs more European companies.

Yes, I agree. When we speak about infrastructural projects, Chinese companies are involved. They have made substantial investments. Bolloré employs 28 Chinese executives linked to Africa, because we noticed the important significance of China to the continent. We would like to see more interest and involvement of the United Kingdom with Uganda, especially in agriculture, oil and gas, and infrastructure. However, we are seeing other European companies coming into Uganda more and more.

How do you think your clients perceive you? How do people know about your brand?

When I arrived in 2012, we had an official re branding campaign where we invited all our partners, customers, suppliers and local authorities, to explain our re branding. Up till today, we are still emphasizing the name change. With the Francophone countries, it is easier to explain; In East Africa, we still need to emphasize the message more.

What would be the message of the father of logistics in Uganda to our audience?

I would like to thank the government of Uganda, and especially the president, for the peaceful and secure country, which eases our doing business here. I also thank the government for the positive energy with which it is running the country.

I think Bollore Africa Logistics is well known, and I thank our stakeholders for their trust. We will continue to be the leading Logistics Company in the country and serve our current and future clients better.

Thank you very much.