‘Africa led by Africans’

Dow’s Sami Mainich places trust in African talents

By Sherif Tarek

Premium badge Reserved for subscribers

Posted on May 31, 2023 14:28

 © Sami Mainich (photo: supplied)
Sami Mainich (photo: supplied)

Since being appointed president of Dow’s Africa operations in late February, Sami Mainich has been on the lookout for partnership opportunities across the continent with governments and the private sector alike, relying completely on an African workforce in his pursuit.

“The entire African region is 100% managed by Africans. ‘Africa led by Africans’ is a motto that is very close to our heart,” Mainich tells The Africa Report from his office east of Cairo.

Dow, a  globally leading multi-billion materials science company, has around 130 employees in Africa, all of whom hail from African nations, he says. They comprise a tiny fraction of the Midland-based firm’s 38,000 employees worldwide.

Last January, Dow announced that it would cut around 2,000 jobs, mostly in the tech sector. These layoffs had “very little impact on Africa”, says Mainich, stressing that creating a greater pool of talents on the continent remains a priority.

Increasing Dow’s African-based staff, all the same, rides on its future expansions in Africa, says Mainich, who declined to disclose details of the company’s current projects or future endeavours on the continent.

Dow, which set foot in Africa over 60 years ago, today has operations in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, the first market the company tapped on the continent. The company focuses on miscellaneous business areas, including agriculture, manufacturing, and recycling.

Pandemic effect

Dow has started to nurture and depend on homegrown talents in Africa since the pandemic, which instigated nationwide travel restrictions in 2020-2021. 

As much as Covid tribulations have largely died down, the company still upholds the same strategy, which Mainich says could help to inject fresh blood into the company and bring in new perspectives. 

“My job and the job of the African leadership that I’m managing is to sustain the trend of relying on African talents,” Mainich says. Around 30% of Dow’s African-based employees went through leadership and development programmes in the last three years, he adds.

Africa gave me a chance that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. This is why I am personally even more engaged in this journey of growing African talents.

“Externally, we have partnered with [Lagos-based youth-focused leadership development organisation] Leap Africa on the Youth Day of Service campaign, to help African youths develop and support solutions that spark positive change and build resilient sustainable communities,” he says, referring to a partnership announced in October 2022.

‘African with deep roots’

The son of a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother who was born and bred in France, Mainich labels himself an “African with deep roots”.

He received an engineering degree in Polymers from the University of Strasbourg, and an Executive MBA from the Algerian Higher School of Business in Algiers.

Mainich has never worked in Europe, aside from summer gigs in France as a student. He landed his first job in Morocco, a country he didn’t know much about at the time. But that soon changed. “As a son of immigrants, you will always have a foothold in Africa,” he says.

“When I got my degree, I moved to Africa and I’m extremely grateful for that. This move got me where I am today; Africa gave me a chance that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. This is why I am personally even more engaged in this journey of growing African talents.” 

Mainich, who joined Dow in 2011, filled several leading positions at the company, including the managing director for North and West Africa, before being promoted to his current post.

“Mainich’s new role will be vital in driving critical enterprise-wide initiatives to provide solutions that accelerate the continent’s industrialisation and sustainability agenda,” said Neil Carr, President of Dow Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India when the promotion was announced.

More inclusive market 

A member of the US President’s Advisory Council of Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA), which supports market creation on the continent by bringing together a wide range of expertise, Mainich is upbeat about African countries’ potential.

We would like to see a more inclusive market with materials and goods flowing in a smoother way in Africa.

He sees Africa’s growing population, increasing urbanisation, an abundance of resources, and the development of financial services and technological infrastructure as catalysts for economic betterment. 

He’s also holding out hope that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could pay dividends and keep member states from being stuck in the doldrums. 

“We have a presence in key regions of Africa. The AfCFTA is key to paving the road to intra-African trade. We would like to see how the countries will be able to diversify their exports and improve their product quality,” he says.

We would like to see a more inclusive market with materials and goods flowing in a smoother way in Africa. We will continue to analyse the needs of these different markets to determine what would be the best infrastructure and resources to support our customers and grow our business in Africa.”

There's more to this story

Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.

Subscribe Now

cancel anytime