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Bolloré, Maersk…Who controls Africa’s ports?

By Thibaud Teillard, Arthur Beaubois-Jude
Posted on Friday, 7 January 2022 15:09, updated on Wednesday, 19 January 2022 14:10

Unloading of Maersk containers at the Port of Freetown terminal in Freetown, Sierra Leone, controlled by Bolloré Africa Logistics. © Jean Claude MOSCHETTI/REA

Even though the international port groups Bolloré and Maersk are ambitious, they still only have a small presence in Africa’s container terminals, which are dominated by a few select operators. Here is a visual overview with information about the most powerful players who remain at the helm of the continent's ports.

Two of the world’s top five, China’s Cosco Shipping Ports and Singapore’s PSA International, are completely absent from the continent, if one excludes Cosco’s minority stake (20%) in the large Egyptian terminal of Port Said, located at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal. China’s Hutchison Ports, another global giant, has only gained a small foothold in Egypt.

The continent, Bolloré’s future ex-raison d’être?

Africa is first and foremost the hunting ground of a group that has long made it its raison d’être, namely Bolloré. Although the French family-owned conglomerate, headed by Vincent Bolloré, is only marginally present in the world’s other ports (in India, Timor and Haiti, after even exiting French ports in 2019), it is the undisputed leader of the continent’s main port concession market, West Africa. More often than not, Bolloré has won bids in association with APM Terminals, the port subsidiary of the world’s (and Africa’s) number one container shipping company, Denmark’s Maersk.

The two groups seem to have a lot of potential at three West African ports – Tema in Ghana, Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville, and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire – as well as a new terminal under construction, TC2. APM Terminals, in particular, is an African port success story as it is dominant in Morocco and more precisely in Tanger Med, where it controls two of the four terminals.

APM Terminals also has a foothold with Bolloré in Conakry, while the French group is a service provider to the Dutch group at the APMT terminal in Monrovia. The two groups have only experienced one setback, in Douala, where their concession was not renewed on 1 January 2020. However, the duo have since had many legal victories over the autonomous port.

Read on for a detailed map of Bolloré’s Africa presence: