CIEL Group operates in a number of sectors, including financial services, health and textiles, and is one of the leading economic players in Mauritius. This performance is linked to its activities in a number of African countries where the family-controlled group is implementing a regional and sustainable development strategy, despite the impact of Covid-19. Here are a few explanations from Jean-Pierre Dalais, its Chief Executive Officer.
CIEL Group is more at home than ever in Africa, with a firmly established foothold in Mauritius, its country of origin, and another in Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria.
This international conglomerate thereby “spans” Africa, where it generates 80% of its turnover, which stood at some EUR 500m in 2020. “We employ about 25,000 people there”, says Jean-Pierre Dalais, its Chief Executive Officer, at the group’s headquarters near Port-Louis. “Africa is one of our main markets. It’s also our future. It’s the part of the world that will experience the highest population growth between now and 2050.”
CIEL IS CONTINUING ITS OFFENSIVE IN ITS HISTORICAL MARKETS
Young, resilient, innovative… The continent has many things to offer and an entrepreneurial ecosystem experiencing a boom. Africa is at the cutting edge in a number of technological and financial sectors, with new start-up incubators and accelerators emerging everywhere. “This capacity for entrepreneurship will promote the emergence of innovative SMEs and start-ups which will create the Africa of tomorrow”, says Jean-Pierre Dalais. “It’s very stimulating. We’re Mauritian and therefore African. This dynamic is one of the main drivers of our development strategy.”
CIEL Group intends to support this momentum. To do so, it will continue its investments in its historical markets, especially in Madagascar, where it has been operating since 1989, and East Africa. Its new roadmap, which outlines the prospects for its activities in the coming years, also lays out plans to strengthen its local partnerships. For Jean-Pierre Dalais, this point is crucial. “Africa is multifaceted. Local specific conditions remain strong.” Management culture, political context, public governance…
There are often contrasting realities in the field. This means that each country and region has its own business environment. “It is therefore essential to be able to rely on a network of experienced partners that can understand these realities”, he says. The high volatility of local currencies and difficulty in accessing competitive loans due to the credit risk are other points that require vigilance. “Financing is a real challenge, including for a group of our size”, says its CEO, adding: “For example, interest rates remain very high in most emerging countries in East Africa.”
HEALTH SERVICES: THE KEY GROWTH DRIVER FOR THE MAURITIAN GROUP
However, the entire continent does offer an increasingly stable and uniform business environment. Every year, it attracts some USD 45bn of foreign direct investments. For CIEL Group there are still many opportunities to be seized. “Our strategy aims to promote inclusive short circuits so that we can reach as many local users as possible”, says the manager. This is particularly the case in the financial services sector where CIEL is now a key player. “The rate of use of the banking system in Sub-Saharan Africa remains low at about 10%.
For example, we have identified major needs in mobile banking”, says Jean-Pierre Dalais. The CIEL FInance subsidiary is already the majority shareholder of BNI Madagascar, after the buyout of the shares of Crédit Agricole. The Group invests in private equity in a number of East African countries. CIEL Finance also has other subsidiaries, including IPRO and MITCO, which operate in Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa.
The rate of use of the banking system in Sub-Saharan Africa remains low at about 10%. For example, we have identified major needs in mobile banking.
The Group also expects an increase in activity in the health sector. Its subsidiary CIEL Healthcare is a leader in the hospital market in Mauritius and Uganda and is gearing up for new operations when opportunities arise. “The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility and disparity of African public health systems”, says Jean-Pierre Dalais. Yet in a number of African countries, it is the private sector that most often provides a response to the growth in demand for healthcare from people. “Africa’s middle class now wants to have access to high-quality private healthcare. We are seeking to extend our range of services in growing markets, particularly in English-speaking Africa.”
There is the same consolidation strategy in the Group’s other sectors of activity. Agribusiness, textiles, tourism…: CIEL is active on all fronts despite the impact of the health crisis. “2020 was complicated. It was as if we had climbed Kilimanjaro several times. We had to be resilient”, says the manager, before concluding: “But we’re stronger today. In Mauritius, we are also fortunate to benefit from a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), as well as special agreements with certain African countries. This is extremely valuable.”
CIEL is an investment group based in Mauritius with a history stretching back more than a century. With strong family values, it is continuing its development in Africa based on six strategic sectoral focuses: agriculture, textiles, financial services, the hotel industry, real estate and health services. Through its various subsidiaries and investments, CIEL has over 32,000 employees in Mauritius, Africa and Asia.