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It is hard to miss their buildings when driving on the motorway that links Dakar to Blaise-Diagne International Airport. In less than ten years, the Turkish company Summa has built an international conference centre (Abdou Diouf), a luxury hotel (the Radisson), a sports centre (Dakar Arena), an exhibition centre and, most recently, a football stadium (Abdoulaye-Wade) to international standards that echoes the colours of the Senegalese flag at nightfall in the new town of Diamniadio. Each of these sites was built within 15 months.
Constructing ambitious infrastructure in record time is a trademark of Summa which, since 2010, has expanded on the continent in Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda and Benin. But the multinational headed by CEO Selim Bora – active in the construction, energy, mining, hotel, real estate and health sectors – is currently concentrating its efforts in Senegal. And the company decided to set up its continental headquarters in 2015 in north Dakar.
Its first project in Senegal dates back to 2013, less than a year before the Francophonie’s XVth Summit was launched. “Summa made an unsolicited offer, committing to provide the financing – via the Turkish bank Eximbank – and complete the work in 11 months. In the end, they built the Abdou Diouf International Conference Centre in nine months,” says Alhousseyni Ndiaye, director of development for the Société de Gestion des Infrastructures Publiques dans les Pôles Urbains de Diamniadio et du Lac Rose (Sogip).
This first project established the credibility of the company, which is taking an increasing share of the market for major works led by Macky Sall, with spontaneous bids that hit the mark.
“Summa does not really have any competitors, either nationally or internationally. The company stands out in two ways: because of its ability to meet deadlines, but also because it can obtain financing from Turkish banks,” says Ndiaye. “For their sites, they have a base with day and night teams, 24 hours a day. They do not skimp on logistics, personnel and means to meet them, even if it means outsourcing from Turkey.”
The Radisson Hotel in Diamniadio was completed in ten months at a total cost of €30.8m; the exhibition centre in eight months (€23.2m); the Dakar Arena in 11 months (€93.5m) and the Abdoulaye-Wade stadium in 15 months (€238m), instead of 17 months as stipulated in the contract, despite the problems linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Deadlines are a fundamental argument. Look at Cameroon, their African Cup was snatched from them at the end of 2018 because their infrastructure was not ready. They had two extra years to finish their stadiums,” says Ndiaye, who works closely with Mehmet Ünüvar, Summa’s director of operations in Africa.
Sogip, which was created at the end of 2015, is responsible for both the construction and operation of the above-mentioned infrastructure.
Favourable diplomatic context
But the construction company also owes its success to the support of the Turkish authorities. For instance, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the unveiling of the Abdoulaye-Wade stadium on 22 February, in what was his fifth official visit to Senegal since 2013. The Turkish leader took advantage of this visit to preside over the inauguration ceremony of the new Turkish embassy building in Dakar, located on the seafront. Summa of course was contracted on this project.
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The relationship between Senegal and Turkey – whose bilateral trade volume has exceeded $500m in 2021 – is blossoming, and the Turkish construction company’s success is at its heart. In 2017, Sall elevated CEO Selim Bora to the rank of commander in the National Order of the Lion. This good Senegalese-Turkish understanding can also be felt on the construction sites.
“The Islamic aspect is taken into account, unlike other international companies, which only see the purely capitalist aspect,” says Ndiaye. In the new stadium’s changing rooms, there are also spaces for praying – arrangements that are not recommended by Fifa’s regulations.
Role of firefighter
In addition to spontaneous bids, Summa is regularly called upon by the Senegalese government to fix problems. In 2016, the Turkish consortium Summa-Limak finalised the AIBD construction site, while the Senegalese State had financial differences with the initiator of the work, the Saudi Bin Laden Group (SBG). The work was completed in eight months. The two Turkish companies are now 66% shareholders and operators of the AIBD via a 25-year concession contract.
Last year, financier Mountaga Sy, director of the Agence Nationale pour la Promotion des Investissements et des Grands Travaux (Apix), the TER’s project manager, called the company to help finalise the construction of the Diamniadio station.
The Senegalese company Générale de Travaux Publics et de Négoce (Getran) was then significantly delayed in delivering the project.
In the wake of this, Summa inherited the construction of the AIBD station, as part of the second section of the TER, which will eventually link Dakar to the airport in 45 minutes.
Since September 2021, Summa has been in charge of finalising the construction of the Amadou Mahtar Mbow University after years of stagnation since its launch in 2014. This latest project – initially entrusted by the Ministry of Higher Education to Ivorian politician Adama Bictogo’s company Marylis BTP, then to the Israeli investor Ron Yafett’s company DSC – is expected to open ahead of the next academic year. Its cost, estimated at 100bn CFA francs (about €152m), has been constantly revised upwards.
A shopping centre planned
Will we see new large-scale construction sites bearing the Turkish company’s stamp in the coming months in Diamniadio? “A site has been allocated to Summa to build a hotel, a leisure centre and a shopping centre, next to the stadium,” says the Sogip development director, without giving further details.
Turkish investors proposed this new state-of-the-art project, entitled “the village”, to Sall during a visit to Istanbul on 17 December 2021 on the occasion of the thirs Turkey-Africa summit.
However, Ndiaye says that Summa does not have an exclusive contract in the new town. “We need waste treatment plants, hospitals, functional schools… The list is long. We are starting to receive unsolicited offers with financing, especially from Indian companies… You could say that Summa has opened the way.”
The Turkish multinational has not finished carrying out projects on the continent. It is currently working on redeveloping the Amohoro national stadium in Kigali, as well as on the construction of a hotel complex (Sofitel) in Cotonou, and will soon start building an international airport in Bissau. It will have the support of banks and the Turkish government, and will also be able to boast of its achievements in Senegal.
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