It is no secret that Africa needs to add much greater value to the metals and minerals extracted by the continent’s mining sector. Commentators often highlight the need to attract foreign investment to help move Africa up the value chain by building the capacity to process the commodities it currently exports.
Yet, the important role that locally-owned small and medium-sized businesses can play in not only processing what mines produce, but also providing them crucial services, is easily overlooked. Biotitiale, an Ivorian consulting firm providing laboratory testing and analysis, has proven how access to finance and support can help small businesses to benefit from growth in an industry dominated by large players.
Biotitiale was founded in 2012 by Dr. Kossonou Yao Kamele to service mines in Côte d’Ivoire and the surrounding region. Holder of a Doctorate (PhD) in Food Science and Technology, Dr. Kamele spent seven years working for well-known companies, but was inspired by a passion for entrepreneurship to start Biotitiale.
The firm is dedicated to quality, environment, hygiene, safety and health test and analysis. Biotitiale provides these services to help its clients to reduce risks, streamline processes and improve the sustainability of their operations. Its laboratory performs quality testing and analysis on a wide variety of substances including source and waste water, foodstuffs, and soil and rocks. Biotitiale also provides training to help its clients to comply with environmental management and audit standards to meet ISO, QHST and SST standards (Quality-Health-Safety-Environment).
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Côte d’Ivoire posted impressively high economic growth since 2012, when political turmoil in the country began to recede and the business environment improved. Biotitiale was well-positioned to take advantage of this upswing, as well as a boom in the country’s mining industry after the implementation of a new mining code in 2014. Although the company secured contracts with large miners, its much larger competitors still hold the lion’s share in the market for laboratory and testing services in Côte d’Ivoire. This is not least because the industry is extremely capital intensive.
By 2017, Biotitiale had established a strong client base, but a shortage of capital to purchase new equipment was holding the business back. GroFin provided the company with financing to purchase new high-end laboratory equipment, which has greatly improved turnaround times and helped Biotitiale to gain additional market share.
The new equipment means that the Biotitiale’s laboratory can now perform between 300 and 500 sample analyses per day. Before this would have taken an entire week. This improved capacity means the firm can keep better pace with demand from the fast-growing mining industry, while GroFin’s business support has also helped Biotitiale to win new clients in other sectors through improving marketing.
The World Bank expects the Ivorian economy to grow by 7.3% during 2019 – which will keep it among the top performers in the Sub-Saharan region. Côte d’Ivoire’s Chamber of Mines also expects the mining sector to continue its expansion to contribute 5% of the country’s GDP by 2020. But at the same time, the IMF has pointed out that despite impressive economic growth in recent years, poverty level in Côte d’Ivoire has remained stubbornly high. The need to grow and ensure the sustainability of small businesses to boost job creation, therefore remains urgent.
Biotitiale has not only created and sustained much-needed jobs, but also continues to make a positive contribution to the growth of the Ivorian mining sector. Its services help mines to ensure the health and safety of their workers and to protect nearby communities and the natural environment.