WEST AFRICA’S LARGEST INDEPENDENT CHEMICALS FIRM

Nigeria 2020 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Chika Ikenga, Group Managing Director of Eunisell, on a range of operations, the FMCG market, and a transformative year ahead.

What is the extent of the Group's operations?

Eunisell operates in diverse markets in West and Southern Africa and continues to expand despite a challenging economic environment. We support the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, as well as the personal care market. Our chemicals company provides oil field and industrial products and services, as well as additives for the lubricant market, while our oil and gas services' company provides engineering solutions. We help marginal oil fields achieve first oil and early cash flow sooner, by providing production facilities and experienced personnel. Our personal care business is focused on providing solutions to hair and beauty challenges faced by women in Africa. Natures Gentle Touch, our West African brand, is the market leader and behind the fast-growing trend of women wearing their natural hair to reveal their unique, cultural and personal style. Eunisell is Bureau Veritas ISO 9001:2015 certified. The international rating ensures that our Group's Quality Management System and processes function at the highest possible standards throughout the enterprise, with the benefits accruing to our customers.

What are your main products? Do you have the capacity to service the Nigerian market?

We provide state-of-the-art technology and experienced personnel to enable the Group to develop leading product solutions. Our customers span major industry sectors, so in turn, we produce a wide array of chemicals in our manufacturing facility in Lagos and import others. We have the capacity and currently are expanding our operations to meet the growing market demand. We have made significant investments, funded internally, to grow the business and we reinvest profits. Structuring joint ventures has allowed us to fund operations and to better manage and minimize risk. Interest rates are high in Nigeria, so depending on short-term bank loans for growth is limiting.

What high-potential areas do you see for the company's expansion?

We will consider perhaps chemicals derived from agricultural products to supply large manufacturers, as well as feedstock, with products sourced from starch or palm. On the lubricant side, we help to grow local companies by providing technical support and ensuring raw materials are available. Nigeria still imports over 80% of its raw materials. We produce 40% of all our products in Nigeria and contribute 11% to what is being consumed in the country. There are over 20,000 chemicals supplied to the oil and gas, food, beverage and industrial cleaning industries. If the new petrochemical plant comes on-stream as planned, we will assess the raw materials demand and manufacture additional products locally.

What are the challenges and peculiarities of doing business in Nigeria?

The main issues are infrastructure and a good business environment. Furthermore, there is an issue with human resources; the standard of education and training must improve. We hope that the government addresses these issues, people lack skills and capabilities. We do not feel the impact of sub-standard, imported chemicals because we have clear and compelling value propositions. In terms of personal care, we do not see the imports as competition. We address and provide unique solutions to specific problems faced by Nigerian women. Imported brands do not really address the challenges, or realities of the continent. We have a significant and growing presence in the FMCG retail market. We are looking to expand our personal care into skincare products and will look into cosmetics in the future. We already are in South Africa and we will continue with our geographical expansion. Notwithstanding the challenges, I am confident about Nigeria, our country can become a major industrial hub in the future.

What message would you send to the local and international investor community?

Recognize that there are opportunities with significant returns behind the current challenges and business environment complexities. There is significant migration to urban hubs, with a rapidly growing middle class as a result, and it is this segment that will contribute to economic growth in the future. That we are a net importer nation, translates again into opportunities for local production and employment. The improvement in our primary and secondary education is critical to increase skills. We are providing vocational education for women through our Natures Gentle Touch Institute, as it is a way to scale them out of poverty. When primary and secondary education are taken care of, there will be a strong workforce to overcome the basic level of development.

What is your outlook for 2020?

2020 will be a watershed for the Group; we will expand and thus hire more people to create more job opportunities.