Ahmed Rahmani of Vinci Energies says: “In Africa, the requirements are at the same level as in Europe”
Ahmed Rahmani, a Moroccan national based in Casablanca, has been in charge of Vinci Energies' Morocco and West Africa zone since 2017, with the multinational’s global turnover at €12.6bn ($14.2bn) in 2018.
The enterprise, which delivers turnkey projects such as power plants, also builds electric distribution infrastructures and offers industrial services, construction and data management solutions.
Vinci Energies has a strong presence with nearly €450m in revenue in Africa, more than half of which in the Morocco and West Africa zone. Rahmani wants to position his group as one of the leaders in the energy transition on the continent.
The construction of electricity distribution networks is your core business. In recent years, the focus has shifted back to these projects. Do you benefit from it?
Ahmed Rahmani: Absolutely. In 2017, we won four of the seven bids submitted during the call for tenders for the Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Gambie, which will connect the power grids of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau by deploying 1,667km of high-voltage lines and substations.
It is a market of €140m for 1,000km of lines, which is fundamental for the countries concerned. It is very innovative because it is cross-border and quite complicated, given the very short deadlines.
Construction of lines, power plants, industrial services, you have several activities. Who are your main competitors?
Local companies and major Indian stakeholders such as KEC, Kalpataru and Larsen & Toubro, in energy transport, but also Chinese stakeholders in energy in general, such as Sinohydro. If you look at the tenders, you will notice that our competitors come from all over the world and are especially numerous. Each call for tenders involves about ten actors.
What makes the difference? The price?
Not only that. The ability to meet deadlines is very important, as well as quality. In Africa, the requirements are at the same level as in Europe, since our clients mostly use European consulting engineers.
How can African states to solve their sizeable financing problems in this domain?
You have to think outside the box. In this matter, the Moroccan example in rural electrification is quite inspiring. In fifteen years, Morocco has gone from 18% of the population with access to electricity to 100%. The financing of this programme was original, involving the final consumer at a rate of 20%, alongside the municipalities at 25% and the state at 55%. This was done as a loan. An estimate of consumption was made and, for seven years, the invoice was increased by 20% for subscribers.
Are you interested in gas-to-power projects?
Of course, since if we add up all our activities together. We can practically develop this type of project from A to Z, from the construction of gas pipelines to the construction of power plants.
Are you particularly interested in any one of these projects?
The Moroccan project, since the Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable – which is to who is to carry out this project – is our first customer in this area.
Your largest customers are public actors?
Not entirely. The Office Cherifien des Phosphates represents an average of €20m per year, particularly for energy services.
What challenges do you face to further develop your activities in Africa?
We have difficulty finding the necessary human resources on the spot. This forces us to make great efforts to integrate young people with no experience. The positive point is that West Africans are very open to expatriation and adapt extremely quickly.
This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.