Could you bring us up to the date with your activities in the past year?
Last year was challenging for Dutylex, as it was for many businesses. The pandemic tightened the supply chain and drove logistics prices up. Travel restrictions prevented us from entering sites so many of our projects were cancelled. At the same time, this period also constituted an opportunity to clear our books, address the gaps in our company, and welcome new procedures and policies that we had not managed to do before since we were mostly concentrated on sales. Also, 2020-2021 proved a very opportune time to put into use new technology and learn to operate remotely and more efficiently. Overall, the pandemic has been an eye-opener, teaching us we must be prepared for the worst-case scenario and take nothing for granted.
How has the supply chain of your Petro-Canada lubricants has been affected?
We recently became Petro-Canada’s official distributor. Due to a sharp rise in raw material prices and limited crude oil availability, our supplier experienced some challenges in their production. Deliveries were also impacted, and six weeks’ transfer times turned into 10 weeks. On top of this, strikes at the port of Toronto delayed exports. Today, things are normalizing and we expect the return to a pre-Covid scenario by Q4 2021. Dutylex is growing again, and this is precisely because we are able to guarantee a reliable supply to our customers who can trust they will see their products delivered on time.
What does the increased activity in the gold sector mean for service and equipment suppliers?
Ghana is currently the number one gold producer in Africa, and the increased gold output has driven activity across the mining value chain. At Dutylex, mining constitutes about 40-50% of our revenues and it will remain a critical part of our growth forward. With numerous players, the lubricants market is characterized by fierce competition. We differentiate ourselves not just through high quality and reliability, but, above all, by offering a service package more than just a product: We see ourselves as an enabler and problem solver that can bring value to our partners.
Can you help our mining audience understand the importance of using high-quality lubricants for their equipment?
The market typically leans towards low-cost products, so educating the industry on the importance of quality is both a big challenge and a key priority. We collaborate with our partners to raise awareness on the role of lubrication in improving efficiency, optimizing costs, and even reducing the environmental footprint. It is not the initial cost but the overall quality that makes the difference in the long-term, and this is the key element of the mindset shift we seek to create. Delivering on a complete service, including consultancy and advisory, is another big part of our premium value offer. Finally, the improved performance is the lasting testament of why quality matters.
What are some key priorities for the future?
One of our key priorities is to increase our mining footprint and engage with producers like AngloGold, as well as other mid-tier producers in Ghana and beyond. We already count partnerships with top-tier producers like Newmont, but there are more middle-sized players in Ghana that we’d like to work with.
We also aim to expand beyond the shores of Ghana into neighbouring countries such as Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, or Senegal. Partnerships and new contracts with multiple players will be driving our business forward since we operate a volume-first model rather than focusing on small-scale opportunities. Finally, we do not want to be perceived exclusively as a mining supplier, but instead, to expand our activities towards food lubricants, oil and gas lubricants, and general manufacturing.
Do you have a final message?
Our goal is to grow, but we want to grow sustainably, ensuring the profitability of our shareholders and reversely, maintaining their continuous support as we expand our business. West African governments must learn how to better engage with the private sector and stay open to private-public relationships that benefit both sides. While in the past, we would wait for international players to take over grounds and invest in Africa, I believe the right time has come for local people to lift Africa out of poverty, collaborate fairly with authorities, and invest in our own assets.