What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about working in Ivory Coast? What makes it exciting?
It’s a challenge. It’s really exciting to start from scratch, create a new company, and construct everything (the plant, the team, etc.)
What are your personal secrets for leading a team?
There are no secrets, I just try to set a good example, show motivation and respect the company rules. I listen to the team and have open discussions with them. I want to create an attractive environment (including training/team building/bonuses) in order to reach the full potential of each employee.
I explain the rules and the objectives to them and let them do their best in order to reach the goals. For me, autonomy is a key point. Controlling is not my favorite task but it’s really important to check that the milestones are being reached on time and as expected.
Ivory Coast’s economy is now one of the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the world's largest exporter of cocoa and one of the largest exporters of coffee. Is this also reflected in a stronger democratic political basis and certain growth of a stable middle class?
After the big crisis of 2011, following the presidential election of 2010, Ivory Coast has been one of the more stable countries in the sub-Saharan area since 2012. This stability and the natural potential of the country (agriculture/mining/oil) have given investors confidence. These investments allow a certain growth of the middle class
But the unemployment rate is still high and the two civil wars are recent history. What are the biggest opportunities for the economy?
In my opinion, political stability will be the main issue for the development of the country. With stability, more and more people will invest in the Ivory Coast. This country has an abundance of natural resources. Basically, agriculture, mining and oil will be the biggest chances but buildings, tourism, education and health will be important sectors too.
How about the construction market? Where exactly does Ivory Coast need Sika?
Technically, the construction market is at a basic level. We have some old buildings here from the 70s. From 2002 (the first big crisis) until 2012, construction halted entirely. Today we have new needs and new and modern constructions (hotels, roads, bridges, hospitals) which are realized in partnership with foreign investors.
Today customers use basic-level products (Sika latex, Sikalite, C1 tile adhesive, floor hardener, plasticizer and waterproofing admixture). Our job today is to inform and train all the economic construction players (contractors, retailers, control office for construction and government) in our technical and innovative solution for buildings and promote them. We want to drive market transformation and thus ensure our competitive advantage.
Can you see any new trends in construction in Ivory Coast?
Most of the architects and designers have undertaken some of their education in Europe, so today the trend is similar to that in Europe.
Are there any extraordinary Sika projects in the country you would like to tell us about?
Sika has been involved in the refurbishment of Abidjan cathedral—the first roof was made in 1982 with Sika membrane. After the war, the roof needed major refurbishment and Sika was chosen by the government to undertake this. The job was completed in 2015 with a blue Sarnafil membrane (pictures).
Furthermore, Sika partnered up with Habitat for Humanity to take part in an assistance program to provide six villages with potable water. You can see the results on the Youtube video.
Where is Sika Ivory Coast headed? What are its targets?
Sika is the leader in the refurbishment market (without tile adhesive), and second in admixtures and sealing and bonding. The other target markets have not been representative until now.
The aim is to be the leader in all target markets as soon as we can deliver products from our plant.
We want to produce high-quality mortars (tile adhesive, refurbishment and floor hardeners), high-quality admixtures and local silicone.
For the roofing market we want to expand on our success from the cathedral to boost this new technology. In flooring we expect to develop flooring resin (epoxy and polyurethane) in the new factories (cosmetic and Agro Food).
What are the best things about living in Ivory Coast? What do you personally enjoy the most?
Without any doubt the happiness of the people, and for those who enjoy the sunshine, we have nine months of summer and no winter.
What do you personally wish Ivory Coast for the future?
I wish for political stability and more education for the young.
Education will be the main issue for the success, growth and development of the country.