The Bauer Group is a well-established name in construction. The Germany-based Group has operations in 70 countries worldwide, including a presence in every continent. This vast entity manages its reach through a network of 110 subsidiaries, which are split into three main segments: construction, equipment and resources. We spoke with Emmanuel Dengu, Senior Project Manager for Bauer’s Africa Division, about the subsidiary’s role within the larger Bauer Group.
Bauer Engineering Ghana Ltd (BEG) is a subsidiary of Bauer Spezialtiefbau GmbH, aka the Group’s construction branch. “At BEG, we offer specialist foundation engineering services for the West African market with support from the main Head office in Schrobenhausen, Germany. We focus on infrastructure developments, power stations, ports and the active mining sector.”
BEG operates locally in Ghana and regionally across West Africa. Its main clients are mining companies and Ghana’s government via Infrastructure projects, both of whom it has had l contracts with, but it also works with private individuals, and local partners who rely on its engineering services. We spoke to Emmanuel Dengu about the state of the market in Ghana and West Africa, and especially how it affects BEG’s two main sources of contracts: “The mining sector is growing due to the increase in mineral prices, mainly gold and silver. New mines will be opening that require new infrastructure and other processing structures. There is also the pressure on environmental concerns of the open cast mining method, so mines are opting for the underground mining methods. These leave a less visible footprint on the surface at the end of the mine’s life.” A shift to underground mining means more work for Bauer, as well as a better outcome for the environment long term.
This frontier may be looking positive, but unfortunately, BEG’s other source of major contracts isn’t so steady: “For major infrastructure developments that are government funded, they are impacted by the political cycle. We have noticed a trend: after an election or change of government, projects are either suspended or cancelled completely. It is the nature of where we are, and we have to adapt.”
BEG is interested in breaking into high-rise construction, but this market is currently slow in West Africa, due in part to this process Emmanuel described in government contracts. It is also due to complications in the West African construction sector in general, which slow down private companies and deter from such ambitious projects. “The current market is quiet and challenging,” Emmanuel told us. The sector faces many challenges that make business difficult to keep profitable and timely: one such challenge that many African businesses will attest to is that of cross-border duties and delays. “Despite West Africa being ECOWAS zone, for goods it is not working.” Emmanuel explains: “For people, it works well – as good as the EU. For goods, it is the differences in regulation between the French-speaking countries and the English-speaking countries that causes problems. However, if operating in between the French zone, it is much easier, as they use the same currency and the regulations are very similar.”
Another challenge can be equipment availability, and whether or not this challenge arises can greatly affect the cost of a job for BEG, which, depending on what equipment their competitors currently have access to, can price them out of a job. “If the drilling rigs and equipment are available locally then the competition is not a major concern. When the drilling rigs and equipment have to be imported, this drastically increases the cost for mobilisation and could make us uncompetitive.”
Be that as it may, BEG is, for the most part, unfazed by competition. This is because it knows it is a small part of a greater entity, and has the support and strength of that Group’s expertise and experience behind it. “We are part of Bauer Group, a business with more than 225 years in the special foundations industry. We are technically superior, as we have experience from other parts of the world that can be harnessed when necessary through back up from head office.” Head office also supplies BEG with design support, which again gives it an edge.
BEG isn’t just relying on its wider group, however – it has also taken shrewd steps to place itself in competitive positions. In particular, it has made a series of investments to attempt to see the challenge of equipment availability off at the pass: “We have managed to keep a small fleet of drilling rigs, BG28 and a BG15, which gives us flexibility, as we do not have to import. By the end of the year we will also have a small anchor drilling and micro piling rig to improve our chances on the local market.” The very nature of BEG’s placement also gives it an advantage within West Africa, as Ghana benefits from a well-run banking sector and easy flight connections to the rest of the world, as well as having two main ports – Tema and Takoradi.
Despite certain challenges, therefore, business for BEG is going from strength to strength. In fact, the company is looking to expand its operations: “We want to grow the business in Ghana and the region of West Africa and will need a full team that is well resourced and supported. We are focusing on growing and consolidating our presence and visibility by being on the ground full-time, and with sufficient equipment and resources to respond to projects and clients’ needs.”
As well as assembling the right team for this expansion, BEG is also on the lookout for the right projects. Emmanuel told us that they are keeping a particular eye on the Côte d’Ivoire. Abidjan port is currently up for redevelopment, which opens up a wide slate of potential contracts. In the meantime, BEG isn’t forgetting its greatest current source of support – the mining sector. In order to prepare to move forwards, it is also looking backwards by remembering and aiming to strengthen its partnerships within this sector. “New mines are opening up across West Africa, in mainly Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso, so there is opportunity for us.”
One of BEG’s strengths is that it doesn’t forget its partners, and it builds strong bonds with its clients, too. Emmanuel shared that they’ve received a lot of support from their clients over the years, naming Group 5 as one that stands out. He also mentioned the support the company has had from its local clearing agents, Hans Shipping and Bollore, who have enabled them to move rigs and equipment across borders and import/export to and from other parts of the world. Lastly, he named the company’s auditors, Egala, as having also been of great support, this time in matters of compliance.
BEG is currently drawing to the conclusion of a shaft installation at AngloGold Ashanti’s Obuasi Mine. BEG was hired by Master Drilling to install a shaft for the rise bore installations, and should complete its work by the middle of this month.
Emmanuel has been with Bauer for three years, and described his time working for them throughout Africa as “exciting and sometimes challenging”. However, he loves the work now as much as he did when he joined, and as BEG gets ready to expand, he feels nothing but drive and optimism. He shared his advice on success and continued hard work with us, and they were wise words: “Focus on the goal/destination and be adaptable along the way. Challenges will come and they must not distract you from the destination. There will be diversions and stops, but you get there eventually – with some humour.” We couldn’t agree more.