African governments and businesses are seeking fresh private sector investment to support supply chains as the continent strives for industrialization.
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company is increasingly standing out as a reliable, long-term investor and partner for growth. MSC’s approach chimes with the calls from government leaders attending the June 2023 Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for support to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA/ZLECAF).
Since agreeing the €5.7 billion acquisition of the business that’s now called AGL (Africa Global Logistics), MSC has already introduced new shipping line port calls for Africa, won an African container terminal concession and set about expanding its warehousing and shipping agencies network on the continent.
Commenting in a conference interview with CNN’s Larry Madowo, MSC CEO Soren Toft cited a new port call at Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo, and the related new feeder service calling at Matadi in the DRC, as two examples of how MSC is supporting African importers and exporters. The investment in these services will be complemented by MSC subsidiary TiL taking on the container terminal concession at Walvis Bay, Namibia. Meanwhile, the company is boosting rail connections between ports and hinterland markets in West Africa, as well as scoping new office locations in several countries, Soren said at the forum.
“It’s all testament to the commitment and the belief we have in the continued development of Africa,” Soren said, referring to the vision of the Aponte family that started with MSC’s first liner service to Africa in 1971. “We have a long-term mindset. You cannot be committed to Africa if you are just looking at the next quarterly earnings.”
Welcoming AGL into the MSC family was a very important step in MSC’s investment in Africa, quadrupling the number of employees throughout the continent, and adding a range of complementary logistics solutions to those already offered by other MSC businesses.
Soren echoed earlier pledges by MSC to retain all the talented people of AGL in Africa and to allow AGL’s management the necessary autonomy to implement the MSC vision across the continent. He also reiterated that AGL is a terminal operator for the whole market, including other shipping lines, and that MSC expects productivity and efficiency gains from the AGL portfolio of concessions, over the coming years.
Africa is grappling with challenges such as war, food insecurity and climate change. The Africa CEO Forum gathered together a record 2000+ CEOs, politicians and other representatives of business and civil society to meet and discuss these issues, build relationships and make constructive dialogue.
Pressed by Larry Madowo on how MSC will make concrete commitments, Soren responded:
“The solution is not so much in what we say, but in what we do. So, it’s in the investments that we make, it’s in the continued renewals of concessions at the ports and the new projects that we have, it’s the fact that we continue to expand on land. That’s the commitment and the contribution that we can give.”
Taking advantage of his second trip to Africa as CEO, Soren also led a delegation comprising MSC, MEDLOG and TiL that visited the CEO of the Port of Abidjan. Soren and representatives of MEDLOG and TiL conveyed an ongoing interest in supporting the growth and development of Abidjan as a maritime and logistics hub. The trip also afforded the chance to see at first hand AGL’s new container terminal (CIT) that was inaugurated in December 2022.
MSC-owned businesses (MSC, MEDLOG, TiL, AGL) now account for about 5,000 jobs in Côte d’Ivoire. The country will rely on its strong links with MSC, and other private sector partners, to ensure the ongoing development of the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro, the hinterland transport connections, including the rail link with Burkina Faso, and the logistics facilities that help African farmers, other exporters and importers to manage their cargo transport needs.
With 50 ocean services, making 123 calls per week at 60 ports, MSC offers a unique network that links Africa and the rest of the world, as well as catalyzing trade between African nations.
“Africa is a very important part of our global business,” Soren said. “It’s not always the easiest place to do business, so you have to be patient, you have to have a long-term perspective. But, it’s very promising, there are lots of opportunities and they are many great people delivering them every single day for us.”