Mar 2020 Interview with Mr. João Filipe, Chairman & CEO, Cabship – Cabinda Shipping Services, Luanda, Angola
Prisma Reports (PR): Africa is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for foreign investment, both for advanced and emerging economies and, as Barack Obama stated, Africa is the continent with the greatest potential. What has influenced these changes and is making Africa more attractive these days?
João Filipe (JF): Africa is a continent with great potential that is increasingly attracting other countries that can add value. Its natural resources and minerals are sustaining world-class industries. There is also huge potential in agriculture, tourism, energy, etc. Africa offers the right conditions to collaborate and add value to its raw materials but there is still a trade imbalance, with Africa getting the short end of the stick. African countries should be considered as partners, there should be a win-win situation for both sides. I believe it is getting better with time, and we can see movement towards greater industrialization and job creation – definitely a huge step forward. It is important that the outside world sees Africa as a partner in business and not just as a place to exploit. This will allow the continent to grow and help it to be more independent. I want to believe that Africa is an important continent for development across the globe.
(PR): There are now tangible steps being taken in order to integrate the continent, President Kagame is now leading this African integration with the hope to unify the different regional blocks. Angola should thus not be seen as a 30 million people market, but as the gateway to the region and a market of 200 million people. What is your assessment of the latest steps in this direction?
(JF): Angola is part of the Southern African Development Community – SADC, and regional integration is crucial to us. Angola is a gateway to SADC for various reasons, but mainly because of its favorable location in relation to West African countries. President Kagame is now leading Africa’s integration, in a similar way as other Presidents have tried, and these are good initiatives. The new Angolan executive arm of government has done good things in a short space of time, such as relaxing certain visa requirements for some African countries. By way of example, South Africa’s visas can now be obtained upon arrival. These small changes have a tremendous impact on business and growth. I believe things are changing, however, it is crucial that we discard the mindset of living like islands. There are some African countries that embrace integration but, as always, there are some which do not encourage or promote it because of financial constraints or lack of preparation. For integration to be successful we need time, but we are on the right path to achieve our goals.
(PR): In his inauguration speech, President Lourenço expressed his commitment to support the private sector more, which he identified as the engine of economic growth. It is true that the private sector faces difficulties, but there has already been an improvement in the Ease of Doing Business Index 2018 with respect to 2017, having improved 7 positions in the ranking to #175. How would you describe the business environment in Angola?
(JF): Things are definitely changing. Big changes, however, need time, so we have to be patient whilst we will reach our objectives. This involves everyone, because true change cannot happen just by the president’s wish, we all need to start shifting our mindset. As for the ease of doing business in Angola we can feel some changes already. This won’t be an easy or fast task but we are indeed on the right track. The Guiche Único de Empresa is definitely a good thing. Through it you can establish a company in one day in Angola, giving us a competitive advantage to some other African countries. There has to be more capacity-building initiatives and confidence in Africa’s institutions to help reduce the barriers of entry for businesses. The private sector is at the end of the day the biggest employer and it is the business community that pays taxes. The easing of barriers within the various African States is indeed the future. The government needs to support private enterprises and investments because this is how a country grows.
Transparency is one of the biggest challenges – people need to be informed about the different opportunities within the various sectors. Angola is indeed on the right path. Economic diversification is key as we already know that we cannot depend solely on oil. We have many other areas to explore and we invite foreign investors to help us in this development. Angola must become a country that taps into all its potential and resources. We will always remember our past, colonialism and the civil war. Civil war was the worst because it destroyed everything we got from colonialism and also split families – impacting the social fabric. It is, however, the right time to start a new chapter. I truly believe in my country and also in our people. In the near future, with the efforts of everyone, the country should reach its developmental objectives.
(PR): Cabship will achieve one decade of successful operations next year. What milestones would you highlight?
(JF): In the first place I would like to thank the Angolan government for its vision and the development of the policy on Angolanization through the Ministry of Petroleum. This policy framework promotes the participation of Angolan service providers in the oil and gas industry in Angola and helped companies such as Cabship to develop and grow within the field. Now we are focusing on strengthening our internal service standards to take Cabship to an international level. We are a 100% Angolan company and we have noticed that Angola needs more local companies in this sector, obviously providing high standards of service. I must admit that working in the oil and gas sector is challenging, now even more following the oil crisis of the past few years, however working within the oil and gas industry is always rewarding. The first decade of Cabship was to consolidate our company, our processes and structures. Now we are completing ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 45001:2018 certifications and are also focused on expanding our company regionally and internationally. By the end of this year, we will be present in Houston, Texas, in the freight forward business. Our footprint reaches Dubai through participation in an EPC company engaged in renewable energy initiatives and we also have collaborations in South Africa within the logistics sector.
(PR): You are in talks with other international oil companies (IOCs) interested in the solutions that Cabship offers. As you expressed, “we often say, tell us your pain points and we will design a solution for you.” What are your competitive advantages, your value proposition and what one-stop shop services do you offer?
(JF): Our services are unique in Angola, there is no other company that does what we do. We started off as freight forwarders, shipping agents and stevedoring at Porto de Cabinda. Now we have evolved into the management of docks and terminals. For example, we operate Cabgoc a Chevron’s subsidiary Malongo dock which supports the offshore oil and gas activities in Block 0 and 14 on a 24/7 basis, through an outsourcing scheme (we have over 100 employees working there). We also do oil and gas materials management, from stock, inventory, preservation, pipe yard, drilling completion, facility engineering lay down area management, etc. We are involved in the whole supply chain of petroleum materials. Through our association with Global Logistics Network, Cabship has the ability to handle freight from anywhere in the world. What makes us different from others is our PALMS™ next generation Warehouse Management System, which allows us to accurately track inventory and increase productivity, seamlessly connect with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders, in addition to bringing in real-time visibility of shipments at bulk-break & consolidation points operated by 3rd-parties and get more out of data with our interactive dashboards and predictive analysis.
We focus on new technologies to help us in our endeavors. Our staff is our most valuable asset and we always strive to have a happy company. Their wellbeing is capital to us. These two resources, technology and human capital, are paramount to us; they are our pillars to grow the company. We always look for satisfaction with our partners and clients through the quality of services we provide. At present, we have an A-grade safety rating as service providers by Cabgoc/Chevron. For a local company this is huge achievement, thanks to our staff and leadership team.
(PR): President Lourenço said that Angola will give priority to important partners such as the US, marking 2018 a quarter of a century of diplomatic relations between both nations. US companies maintain a solid position in the oil and gas market, with Chevron and ExxonMobil representing a third of national production. As you mentioned, you work hand in hand with Cabinda Gulf Oil Company Limited (Chevron) and are a member of the US-Angola Chamber of Commerce. In what areas would you like to see closer collaboration?
(JF): I would like the US to cooperate more in the oil and gas services sector, we could work together to improve it. Locally, the sector lacks many things and would greatly benefit from local manufacturing and fabrication of equipment needed for the petroleum industry. In our area of expertise, logistics, we are looking at the establishment of logistics parks for the oil and gas industry as well as other industries. This is an opportunity we are open to look at and discuss with interested businesses. Our actual market position and experience drives us to grow in this area. This could be done through different tools, such as a public-private partnership (PPP), as the State has an interest in logistics platforms. We could develop it as well via a build–operate–transfer (BOT) scheme. This is an area with tremendous growth potential, creating regional logistical hubs. Not only for oil and gas, but we could develop integrated logistics hubs for the telecommunication, pharmaceutical, mineral, construction and agriculture industries too. For example, from strategic places like Cabinda, which has borders with both Congos (Congo Brazzaville and Democratic Republic of the Congo), we could easily export to both countries and get foreign currency, from which Angola will benefit.
We also need to develop our petrochemical industry as well as the renewable energy industry. In my view, there are many areas in which Angolan and US based companies can collaborate. The US is among the leading economies in the world. Its skills and sophistication could definitely help us to get to the desired stage of growth. On the other hand, we, as Angolan entrepreneurs, need to open our minds and be more aggressive to the world and start the dialogue with American entrepreneurs, in order to create an environment for good business to flow: where people benefit, both countries benefit and the environment benefits as well. In the past the language used to be a problem, but nowadays it is not a barrier anymore, we are eager to engage with US businesses interested in investing in Angola.
(PR): Key decision makers are always looking at opportunities around the globe. If they look at Cabship, with which concepts would you like them to associate your company?
(JF): Cabship is a 100% Angolan company with around 500 employees. In 2019 it will be celebrating its 10th year Anniversary. We are an integrated logistics company with a focus on marine logistics, warehouse materials and supply chain management. We are a company that subscribes to good corporate governance and believes in transparency in everything we do. We are results-oriented and strive for excellence. In our sector, we want to be recognized as leaders in exceeding client expectations, offering the best quality services while valuing the people that work with us and the community that we interact with. We are a local company, delivering solutions since 2009 operating according to best practice and with a global outlook