Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced rapid population and economic growth in the past ten years. Saint-Gobain is contributing to its development by providing a tailored range of construction materials and services.
Saint-Gobain serving growth in sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to diverse cultures with varying needs. It includes the entire African continent south of the Sahara, with 49 countries, almost one billion people and an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.5 % over the past ten years.
Only 39 % of Africa's population lives in cities, which places the region among the least urbanised in the world, according to World Bank data (2014). However, urbanisation is gaining increased traction because of the population explosion. For the whole continent, the level of urbanisation will reach 50 per cent by 2035 and 58 per cent in 2050 (CIAN 2016). In the next ten years, the total population of Africa is expected to exceed that of Europe, South America and North America combined.
Younger Africans form a large part of the rising middle class. They are driving demand for consumer goods and services, as well as international brands.
For Saint-Gobain, the challenge is to adapt and facilitate the accessibility of its offering to an increasingly demanding and informed population, with increased but still very limited purchasing power.
Saint-Gobain provides a very broad range of solutions for the construction and renovation of all types of buildings (schools, hotels, hospitals, homes, etc.). From the foundations to the roof, Saint-Gobain covers all the stages of a building’s construction.
South Africa, the springboard
In 2005, Saint-Gobain acquired British Plaster Board, which provided the company with gypsum plants in South Africa (the oldest of which dates from 1929) and in Zimbabwe, together with a warehouse in Mozambique. This purchase expanded Saint-Gobain’s industrial presence, which had already started several years earlier with abrasives, through the acquisition of Abrasives Corporation (1997, South Africa) and with pipe, through the acquisition of Besaans du Plessis (1998, South Africa).
The construction of a float glass production line in 2007 in Ain El Sokhna (Egypt) brought representation for all of Saint-Gobain businesses (excluding distribution) on the African continent.
In 2015, Saint-Gobain started forming industrial partnerships with local enterprises. Two joint ventures were signed in July: one for admixtures in Ghana and the other for plasterboard in Tanzania.
In March 2017, Saint-Gobain, through the Mortars Activity (Saint-Gobain Weber), acquired 100% of Buildezee Adhesives Botswana (PTY) Ltd, a leading manufacturer of tile adhesives and grouts in Botswana.
Through these joint ventures, the company provides its partners with its manufacturing expertise, while the latter contribute their knowledge of the local market.
Along with these industrial developments, Saint-Gobain also has a sales presence in 12 sub-Saharan countries, with offices in South Africa (head office), Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast. In total, Saint-Gobain in sub-Saharan Africa employs about more than 1 300 employees (2018).
Saint-Gobain has therefore a local presence in key sub-Saharan markets.
The local teams have extensive knowledge of the markets, their unique differences and the reality on the ground (specific construction methods, climatic and cultural requirements, product supply circuits, etc.).
They provide a deeper understanding of current and future needs in order to develop solutions tailored to the requirements of distributors, local specifiers and end users.