Noel Mabuma,
Chief Executive Officer,
Congo Equipment
"Currently, Chinese mining activities represent 80% of the industry in the DRC. Our remaining clientele consists of majors such as Glencore as well as subcontractors."

Congo Equipment’s widest product range is for the mining industry. Which of these products is the most demanded?

Our shovels are one of our most proven reliable products, due to its cost-effective and efficient nature as a result of the technology used. It is most demanded by our Chinese clients who are very cost aware; they represent a big part of our clientele in terms of the quantities of products bought. Currently, Chinese mining activities represent 80% of the industry in the DRC. Our remaining clientele consists of majors such as Glencore as well as subcontractors.

To align with our clients’ needs, Congo Equipment offers payment plans, rental options as well as a partnership with a bank to allow companies to lease the equipment.

What programs are in place to reduce Congo Equipment’s expatriate workforce?

A few years ago, we started a localization training plan with an objective of replacing all our expatriate workforce by Congolese nationals. Critical positions identified were matched with a national who is being trained to take over the position. Even if the law was not strictly enforced with regards to transfer of skill, we believe this is how we give back to the country and community in which we operate. Local content is not enforced greatly in the DRC, however I believe this will change as the government wishes to implement it in the upcoming months.

How has the recent implementation of the subcontracting law affected your operations?

There is a lack of clarity on whether the private sector subcontracting law applies to Congo Equipment or not, as it is quite vague. These reforms however led to the entrance of more Congolese subcontractors to the market, which increased our Congolese clientele. They are still small and medium players at the moment since running big projects requires skills and experience. However, we must start somewhere and it will to a large extent promote SMEs with Congolese capital and grant more jobs to nationals. Having lived in about 10 African countries, I do not believe that the Congolese skill gap is unique or different.

What can you tell us about the new facility Congo Equipment completed at the end of 2019?

The new facility, in which we invested US$40 million, opened in February 2020 and it has become Congo Equipment’s main base of operation. It is a world-class structure consisting of workshops, warehouses and offices. It allowed the installation of a new CRC where our skilled technicians can rebuild components such as transmissions and engines.

What is your experience with the ongoing pandemic?

The pandemic had two main impacts on our operations. The first is the changing working culture which we have adapted to, by conducting meetings online and reducing face to face interactions as much as possible. Interaction with customers has also moved remotely. Meanwhile, our expatriate employees were unable to return due to lockdowns, which allowed us to go even more digital. We are excited to announce the future development of our e-commerce platform, allowing customers to order spare parts online – which was already planned but is now accelerated due to the pandemic.

Where do you see the highest growth potential for Congo Equipment in the DRC?

Due to the pandemic, we have diversified and digitalized our operations. Diversifying by targeting the whole market allows us to target small and medium players in the market and to cover better our territory in the future.