Interview with Dório Aguidal, Josefa & Lídia, Lda, Angola
Interview with Mr Dório Aguidal, General Manager of Josefa & Lídia, Lda, General Trade & Industry, Import & Export, Angola
Africa-Marketplace: Good morning Mr Dório. Thank you for your time to interview with Africa-Marketplace today. Could you please share your professional activity and the field in which your company operates?
Dório-Aguidal: Good afternoon. I’m Dório Aguidal, Angolan, businessman, Senior Network, Telecommunications and Information Technology Engineer. At the moment I have a trading company that operates in different areas, but much more focused on the food and oil derivatives sector. I am an agent for Sonangol, which is the main company here in Angola, supplier of oil products, and I supply oil products to Angola and its neighboring countries.
AM: What kind of customers are these products aimed at?
DA: For oil products, it’s mainly construction companies, for roads and bridges, for construction companies, because as you know, machines don’t work without gasoline, diesel, lubricants, grease and others, and paving activities. As for roads, it is important to have asphalt and bitumen asphalt, especially the 50-70, which is a reference, and from time to time, the 60-70, which is a reference for wetter countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. In terms of food, I focus mainly on what we call “fresh items”, from time to time importing from Latin America, supplying our clients here in Angola and the clients we have in the DRC, Zambia and also in Congo Brazzaville.
AM: So for the food sector, most of your clients are abroad, correct ?
DA: Exactly, because as you know, oil derivatives from Angola are subsidized by the State. When I say derivatives I focus more on diesel and gasoline, that is, the export of diesel and gasoline is illegal, so our clientele tends to be more here in our country. As for bitumen asphalt, there is no ban and we have more customers in neighboring countries, so Angola is therefore our customer base for diesel, gasoline and lubricants.
AM: Taking a closer look, would you be able to say what is the percentage of activity carried out within Angola in relation to that carried out outside Angola?
DA: I can actually say 60-40, because Angola is really where we have our main activity.
AM: Understood. Let’s have a look at commercial activity now. What are the elements that the company uses to generate new sales?
DA: To make new sales, obviously, the Marketing, Commercial and other areas have to study the market, know how to use intelligence and counter-intelligence, know the market price of our main opponent, our direct competitor… Look, at the DRC for instance, the metric ton of asphalt bitumen is currently trading at $800 US. Obviously, if we want to sell in large quantities we will have to sell at $750 US in order to increase our opportunities for continuous sales. And the same goes for food as you can imagine.
AM: Ingenuity and creativity are indeed very important to get new sales in new markets. What obstacles do you face today to make such new sales, if any such obstacle exist?
DA: Yes there are. First, in the purchase of products, we may have contracts signed but as you know, African banks do not have such a good reputation for issuing credit lines. We can, for example, sign a contract for the supply of 20,000 bags of food or sugar containers to a beverage factory, with the supplier being located in Brazil; this supplier will not ship any goods without receiving an advance payment of 70% or without a credit line (CL) being opened. And that’s where our very difficulty lies. The opening of a CL from a national bank to a foreign supplier does not have much credibility, which makes it difficult for us to honor some contracts that we may have on the table. Africa produces little and most products and services are imported. Unfortunately, a great difficulty is this importation for later resale. And for this sector to be normalized, we would need contacts, or help from good banking correspondents abroad to open CL’s abroad. Without a credible CL, no supplier will ship his product. It’s this simple. We are penalized, as our own customers are too.
AM: Are there any other obstacles to acquiring new customers?
DA: Certainly. We would be talking about expansion and Marketing. It is known that to sell, one has to look at advertising. Without Marketing, you can’t sell. If we had international partners that could diffuse our existence in countries like Namibia, South Africa and others (which we want to trade with but are not able to), it would be ideal. We really can’t reach these countries because we don’t have any knowledge or acquaintances in it, it’s very simple. It is important for us to have someone serious, who’d open an office and then start providing our services. It’s simply a matter of whether we can find someone that will connect us with local businesspeople, central government, and the like.
AM: It is thus difficult, being in Luanda, to know who would be interested in a partnership, for example in Marrakech or Libreville. Not only because the language is different, but also because of the distance between the two contacts. Right?
DA: It’s true! Look at Morocco for instance, with the Mauritanian part; it is the country that most exports fish to Angola and the Congo’s. Certainly, several producers in Morocco intend to have contact with Angolan businessmen. Not having someone to do this intermediation, the business dies.
AM: So, do companies like your own pay intermediaries to make new sales?
DA: Sure. Mainly when signing a one-year contract or a spot sale, I really force my legal department to sign a contract with the person who brokered the process so that upon the sale or after the sale, that agent may receive it’s x percent through the work he or she performed. In oil products and because it is standard, a sale of 100 t has a commission of 3 to $5 US a ton. Obviously, the more you sell, the more you earn. The same happens in food, but not in such exorbitant numbers. A $5 US commission on food tends to be extremely high.
AM: If there could be a solution that would bring more customers to your company, what form would it take?
DA: First, every entrepreneur will think about an expansion plan. I would be open to any marketing or divulgation offer from my company in neighboring countries. Honestly, I would very much value the person or entrepreneur who’d want to work, as a sales or commercial agent, in the expansion of my services. I would be open to any proposal.
AM: Diffusion is a critical issue for many entrepreneurs in Africa. The continent does not produce much, however it has a very high demand. We observed that there is very little knowledge of who can provide a product, a service, at any given time. Do you agree with the fact that this is indeed of importance?
DA: Absolutely! Because many African entrepreneurs hardly work with banks. Many transactions are made in cash, and few are those who work with the West to import and resell. I think that the continuous training of entrepreneurs is also a very important factor. If we had someone to offer a workshop to various entrepreneurs on how to work, how to attract international partners, of course it would be very welcome. As you know, we have 5 or 6 languages in Africa. If this tutor spoke Portuguese, French, Swahili and so on, he would have acceptance across the continent. Because there are many entrepreneurs with a lot of capital, but they don’t know how to invest, and there are many entrepreneurs with significant quantities of product, but can’t find where to resell it. So, it is important to have this flexibility in teaching so that entrepreneurs and businessmen here in Africa can evolve in the best possible way.
AM: Thank you very much Dório for this sharing, for this very detailed explanation about the food and oil sector in Africa, and your own company.
DA: Thank you very much. We are available to support anyone who’d reach us.
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