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Biotitiale shows small business can share in Ivory Coast mining boom

It is no secret that Africa needs to add much greater value to the metals and minerals extracted by the continent’s mining sector. Commentators often highlight the need to attract foreign investment to help move Africa up the value chain by building the capacity to process the commodities it currently exports.

Extracted by the continent’s mining sector. Commentators often highlight the need to attract foreign investment to help move Africa up the value chain by building the capacity to process the commodities it currently exports.

Yet, the important role that locally-owned small and medium-sized businesses can play in not only processing what mines produce, but also providing them crucial services, is easily overlooked. Biotitiale, an Ivorian consulting firm providing laboratory testing and analysis, has proven how access to finance and support can help small businesses to benefit from growth in an industry dominated by large players.

Biotitiale was founded in 2012 by Dr. Kossonou Yao Kamele to service mines in Côte d’Ivoire and the surrounding region. Holder of a Doctorate (PhD) in Food Science and Technology, Dr. Kamele spent seven years working for well-known companies, but was inspired by a passion for entrepreneurship to start Biotitiale.

The firm is dedicated to qualityenvironmenthygienesafety and health test and analysis. Biotitiale provides these services to help its clients to reduce risks, streamline processes and improve the sustainability of their operations. Its laboratory performs quality testing and analysis on a wide variety of substances including source and waste waterfoodstuffs, and soil and rocks. Biotitiale also provides training to help its clients to comply with environmental management and audit standards to meet ISOQHST and SST standards (Quality-Health-Safety-Environment).

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Côte d’Ivoire posted impressively high economic growth since 2012,  when political turmoil in the country began to recede and the business environment improved. Biotitiale was well-positioned to take advantage of this upswing, as well as a boom in the country’s mining industry after the implementation of a new mining code in 2014. Although the company secured contracts with large miners, its much larger competitors still hold the lion’s share in the market for laboratory and testing services in Côte d’Ivoire. This is not least because the industry is extremely capital intensive.

By 2017, Biotitiale had established a strong client base, but a shortage of capital to purchase new equipment was holding the business back. GroFin provided the company with financing to purchase new high-end laboratory equipment, which has greatly improved turnaround times and helped Biotitiale to gain additional market share.

The new equipment means that the Biotitiale’s laboratory can now perform between 300 and 500 sample analyses per day. Before this would have taken an entire week. This improved capacity means the firm can keep better pace with demand from the fast-growing mining industry, while GroFin’s business support has also helped Biotitiale to win new clients in other sectors through improving marketing.

The World Bank expects the Ivorian economy to grow by 7.3% during 2019 – which will keep it among the top performers in the Sub-Saharan region. Côte d’Ivoire’s Chamber of Mines also expects the mining sector to continue its expansion to contribute 5% of the country’s GDP by 2020. But at the same time, the IMF has pointed out that despite impressive economic growth in recent years, poverty level in Côte d’Ivoire has remained stubbornly high. The need to grow and ensure the sustainability of small businesses to boost job creation, therefore remains urgent.

Biotitiale has not only created and sustained much-needed jobs, but also continues to make a positive contribution to the growth of the Ivorian mining sector. Its services help mines to ensure the health and safety of their workers and to protect nearby communities and the natural environment.

GroFin Ivory Coast client expands digital education reach

Ivory Coast is facing challenges in catering for a rapidly rising labour force, counting 14 million workers in 2015 and poised to rise to around 22 million by 2025. As more and more workers enter the emerging economy, the issue is not so much employment for everyone, as it is to guarantee a decent wage. Indeed, an average worker in Ivory Coast earns the equivalent of US$200 a month, lower than the average in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is here that vocational education has a crucial role to play in imparting usable skills to the youth, such that they are able to secure their future and deepen their contribution to the national economy. GroFin’s clientEcole des Spécialités Multimedia d’Abidjan (ESMA), is one such vocational education provider that is using our finance and support to expand the reach of digital education in Ivory Coast, with the ultimate objective of upskilling youth across the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

Founded in 2006, ESMA is the first private school specialised in multimedia across Francophone West Africa and focuses on the provision of quality education to post-graduate students in the field of digital communicationsmultimediaaudiovisual and web development.

Licensed and regulated by the Ivoirian Ministry of Superior Education, ESMA has a total of 39 classrooms with 39 permanent teachers and 34 permanent and contractual administrative staff. The school started with 75 students in 2006 and presently has two campuses with a total student population of 900. With the acquisition of a new campus in 2016, the school has increased its capacity and can now accommodate 3,000 students.

The key entrepreneur behind ESMA is Mr Doumbia Vakaba, who is a computer engineer and has more than 25 years’ experience in the field of digital mediaprintweb services and business management. Apart from ESMA, Mr Doumbia also runs Cevenol International Primary School, triggered by his concern for the education of both youthand children. Located in Gonzagueville, Port Bouët, a neighborhood where most residents hail from the lower class, Cevenol provides affordable and subsidised basic and primary education to around 450 pupils currently.

n 2017, Mr Doumbia approached GroFin for finance and support to both refinance an existing short-term loan for the acquisition of ESMA’s new premises as well as adequately equip classrooms in the new campus to allow the school to cater for more students. Upgrading ESMA’s capacity will also enable the school to cover a second target segment of students in the regional market of the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) zone which does not have such elite schools to offer vocational training in visual communications and multimedia.

Based on GroFin’s finance and support, ESMA will be in a position to increase its student intake for the 2018 academic year to 1,100, then 1,300 in 2019 and finally 1,500 for 2020in the medium term alone. A suitable moratorium of upto 6 months has also been provided to give the client a leeway to build and operate the requisite infrastructurebefore repayment starts, to avoid stress on cash flow.

“GroFin understood our requirements for both a longer tenor loan as well as aligned repayments with our cash flows by providing a much-needed moratorium. Their finance and support will go a long way in helping us to reach our target long-term intake of 3,000 students who will benefit from superior education and contribute at full capacity to the economic growth of our country,” says Mr Doumbia.