"In January we inaugurated our largest project in Kolwezi; a full logistics hub with access to road and rail, bonded and non-bonded warehousing, machinery, customs offices, commercial banks, truck parking and amenities, making this investment ConnexAfrica’s largest so far."
What is the positioning of the newly created ConnexAfrica following its separation from Comexas Afrique?
Comexas Afrique has been working under a new name since January 2020 - ConnexAfrica. We are now a fully Congolese entity with local shareholders. The company is present across more than 26 locations in the DRC in three regions: West, North/East and South. In addition, we have set up an entity with offices at each border including 10 locations in Zambia. We also have a presence in Hong Kong to facilitate access to our Chinese clients. We offer freight forwarding, transport, shipping agency services, customs clearance, storage services, and other consultancy services in logistics.
How important is mining for ConnexAfrica?
The mining industry always presents a good opportunity for all Congolese providers. We are currently focused on the ongoing operations, and that obviously includes the export of minerals. Via Lubumbashi, minerals are sent to South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique; from there, containers are loaded and send to the rest of the world.
In January 2020 we inaugurated our largest project in Kolwezi; a full logistics hub with access to road and rail, bonded and non-bonded warehousing, machinery, customs offices, commercial banks, truck parking and amenities, making this investment ConnexAfrica’s largest so far. The facility has the capacity to handle between 200 and 400 trucks per day.
ConnexAfrica also has a large presence at Kinshasa and Matadi ports.
The previous entity, Comexas Afrique, had over six decades of experience in the DRC. How have clients reacted to the restructuring and rebranding?
At the beginning of the year, we did a roadshow to meet all of our partners and clients across the country as well as in Zambia and South Arica. While the services have not really changed with respect to the previous structure, obviously clients were curious to learn about the new Congolese legal entity. While we will probably need until the end of the year to evaluate this business transition, so far our perception is that clients have responded well to this change. We have reinforced our values of reliability, knowledge, transparency, close relationships with clients, and quality of service.
China seems to be recovering after the lockdown. When do you think things will really pick up again in the DRC?
Obviously, China is a major driving economic force worldwide and especially for the mining sector of the DRC. We hope that recovery will happen sooner rather than later. The pandemic has surprised everyone on the planet, but we will all have to learn how to live with this virus.
ConnexAfrica has already implemented shifts, homeworking and moved from paper to automated systems. This requires a lot of discipline which we believe will show in the long run.
Digitalization is key to make logistics more efficient. How is this process going in the DRC?
Digitalization is not happening that quickly in the DRC; in our case some of our clients are state-owned companies, where most processes are done on paper. We have started sending some electronic invoices and other documents, and some clients have accepted these. One thing the pandemic has shown us is that we need to improve technology penetration.
The DRC offers great geological potential. What do you think the country could do to attract more mining investment?
Attracting investment relies on government policies. We can see the desire to improve the business environment in the country. By having less bureaucratic hurdles for mining investors and an attractive tax regime, we will be able to generate more investment and thus more jobs. As ConnexAfrica, we consider ourselves as a player in the market who will support all the good practices to improve the business environment. At the end of the day, the bigger the economic activity in the country, the better for all business players.