Marc Roussel – President of Government Services and International Trade, Senior Vice-President of Africa, Bureau Veritas
Marc Roussel, president of government services and international trade and senior vice-president of Africa at Bureau Veritas, highlights the abundance of opportunities in Africa as countries and sectors develop to new standards while taking onboard the advancing steps of the digital age. Also, he discusses the potential of the oil and gas sector for the company and the importance of innovation in positioning them as market leaders.
What is entailed within your position as president of government services and international trade?
“South Africa can be the gateway nation to the rest of the African continent. Furthermore, we see that the country could be a hub for digital innovation, as it is the African country with the most IT resources.”
Bureau Veritas has been given a mandate by governments to work on behalf of them, mostly for their trade facilitation programs, with the majority of our clients being exporters and importers. The reason being that if a company wants to import a product anywhere in the world, they must have certification of conformity on the goods entry, and each specific country has its own set of standards and particular products they want to check. As of today, we have operations in Kenya, DRC, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali amongst others, and Bureau Veritas´s strong network positions us well to expand this service.
What is the strategic importance of Africa for the company?
In general, Africa stands for a small portion of Bureau Veritas´s global footprint, but definitely it is a growing market with great opportunities for the future. Historically the continent has been based around natural resources and raw materials, though agriculture is taking a strong position as certification becomes more sophisticated.
What have been the largest growth drivers?
Definitely agrifood, and we see that the agriculture segment in Africa needs to develop, and we are supporting this initiative. In the past, this was centered around quality control of products, though now we are looking to bring more value at the very beginning of the process. To support this, we have recently acquired a Moroccan company, Labomag, that has excellent knowledge of soil analysis. This allows companies to have a better idea of their crops fertility and irrigation map, as well as the fertilizer program required depending on their crop.
What percentage of the company’s operations are related to oil and gas?
In Africa it is around one third of our operations, and there are expansion opportunities related to this segment. For some countries the demand is based in exploration services such as Senegal, while in others that are at a latter stage, such as Mozambique, the services shift. Within other nations such as Uganda which is slowly developing, our first movement was to assist in training and overall we are preparing them for when the market surge takes place.
What are the scope of services you offer in oil and gas sector?
Bureau Veritas has a worldwide network, so from the very beginning of any project we are able to perform design review studies using one of our technical centres around the globe. These sites, be it in Houston, Aberdeen or Abu Dhabi, have expertise in specific areas, such as deep or shallow water, while at the same time we provide environmental and social impact assessments. Furthermore, we assist in applying the applicable laws and regulations as well as accompanying our clients in the quality strategy of the project, which could impact the final results and/or costs of the project.
Lastly, we are also very active in training the local people on quality, safety, health environment and the technical aspects of a given area.
How conscious is Africa to environmental concerns?
The consciousness is quite high now, and more people are aware of the HSE (health, safety and environment) impact through conducted studies. For new countries in sectors, such as oil and gas, we are active in explaining the complexity of the systems and demonstrating to them where strict rules apply as they do not understand them fully yet. We participate along with the rest of the industry to train and inform the government and workers about legal and technical framework, as at times the awareness of the regulations importance does not exist.
How does big-data and digitalization effect the way you operate?
Digitalization for all us is three-fold. Firstly, like any company in the world, we are implanting the benefits of digital technologies to improve our existing operations to be more efficient.
The second aspect is related to existing services and we are delivering digital tools to help in these areas. For example, for inspections we use web portals and other tools to make it easier for our customers to navigate reports and point out discrepancies. The implementation of the tool has been excellent for our clients and the introduction has assisted in attracting other projects in Angola.
Thirdly, brand new business. Digitalization comes with its own issues of certification and we have a growing demand worldwide for certification in terms of cyber security, data privacy and block-chain technology.
How well prepared is Africa to implement these digital ideas?
Africa is quite good in this regard, and the people are keen and open to utilizing new technology. Our role is to teach the relevant personnel about new regulations in the IT field and ensure the products and services meet the required levels.
What is the strategic role of the South African offices in the growing demands of Africa?
Bureau Veritas in Africa is divided in five regions and has two stand-alone countries. South Africa is the head of the southern region, controlling Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. We witness that South Africa is truly dedicated to conformity, and the nation is in a great position to benefit from the development of the continent and the progression of African trade. South Africa can be the gateway nation to the rest of the African continent. Furthermore, we see that the country could be a hub for digital innovation, as it is the African country with the most IT resources.
How does Bureau Veritas continue to be the top dog within its field in the future?
Next week I will be going to Senegal to commemorate 120 years in the country. This highlights that we have been in Africa since day-one, unlike many others who may only be here because it is trendy. Our staff are part of our large international network, and this is no different in oil and gas, with our blend of international expertise mixed with local knowledge being one of the reasons our clients truly enjoy working with us.
Integrity is part of what makes Bureau Veritas what it is. How do you bring this mindset to Africa?
It is a challenge and at the same time it is a chance. Our clients use us because they trust in what Bureau Veritas does and what our business brings to them. Internally we enforce high standards and ethics, and all the people working for us are passionate towards this approach. Bureau Veritas is adding value to society, and this is why I joined the company, and why we are needed in the development of Africa.
What factor differentiates Bureau Veritas from the rest?
Innovation. The company was founded in 1828, and many competitors have disappeared since then. Yet we still are leading the way and will continue to do so by constantly applying new technologies and adapting to the shifting market trends.