Can you remind our audience of Titanobel’s presence in Africa and your key investment/expansion priorities?
Titanobel is a French drilling and blasting company with a strong African presence. Given the rise in raw material prices putting a damper on export costs, one of our key priorities over the last few years has been to increase our local footprint in Africa and to find the best solutions to serve our customers across West and Central Africa.
In Senegal, we have our own drilling and blasting subsidiary company, while in Cameroon we also established a subsidiary for explosives distribution. Our subsidiary in South Africa focuses on drilling and blasting.
In West Africa, in Ghana, Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, we operate through distributors, working closely with our partners to increase Titanobel’s presence in these markets. Still at a project development stage, we are looking to build a warehouse in Ivory Coast, as well as a production plant in this region. Despite registering a higher volume in sales in the past year, logistic costs coupled with regular maritime transport rescheduling have hindered our revenue growth, making it ever more pressing to produce locally in the countries where we distribute.
International markets make over 30% of Titanobel’s revenue. Where do you identify most growth moving ahead?
Mongolia and New Caledonia are two of the “fresh” markets where we have recently completed large investments through the construction of our production plants. Otherwise, Africa remains our primary focus, providing many opportunities driven by a vibrant mining industry across the continent, as well as less competition and the possibility of attaining a larger market share. The Americas, for instance, are impenetrable for a company like ours given the fierce competition with giants like Orica. Meanwhile, African customers appreciate the speed and flexibility of a human-sized company that can mobilize quickly and respond to their needs wherever the site is located.
What are the key challenges the explosives market confronts?
In the last year, Titanobel increased its market share thanks to signing a new distribution agreement. Demand for explosives is on the rise, but it has become ever more difficult to source ammonium nitrate, with many companies halting production due to the high costs of raw materials such as ammoniac, but also of gas used to manufacture ammonium nitrate. Our R&D department is looking for an alternative, and given the high dependency on this product and the difficulty to replace it, finding a substitute for the ammonium market would be a real breakthrough that the market is working towards. Meanwhile, we had to get creative around sourcing this material and secure the supply for our customers. It is difficult to find a substitute for ammonium nitrate since, for example, our Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO) mixtures rely on this raw material.
Could you comment on the availability of skilled personnel in your markets of operation and how is Titanobel contributing to local skills development?
There are many skilled African engineers, many of who studied abroad in France, the UK, or the US, as well as a large talented pool of locally trained people. As part of our recruitment and retention strategy, we invite new recruits to come to France to do further training, but equally important, we invite them to immerse themselves in the company’s culture. We like to hire locally, and we are very proud to contribute to local skills transfer and cultural exchanges with Senegalese, Cameroonian, or other African nationals.
What makes Titanobel a partner of choice for mining companies in Africa?
Titanobel is flexible, reactive and adaptive. Our engineers quickly mobilize to a mining site to offer blasting solutions to our customers. We offer customers tailored solutions through our modular emulsion plants, which can be operated in remote locations, as well as innovative products such as our high energy emulsions being a perfect substitute to dynamite.
Do you have a final message for our audience?
Titanobel is keen on growing and expanding across different African markets. We always seek the right partners for either warehouse or production facility solutions, and our expansion model on the continent will continue to be underpinned by local partnerships, including developing local expertise through training. In the longer term, we hope to produce in Africa, building our networks and infrastructure and sharing the benefits of local production with local communities and businesses, as well as being closer to our customers.