Interview with Augusto Campos, ASSC Lda, Angola
Interview with Mr Augusto Campos, General Manager of ASSC, Lda, Sanitation and Recycling, Angola
Africa-Marketplace: Good morning Mr. Augusto Campos. Thank you for making this time available to interview with Africa-Marketplace.com. Could you introduce yourself and your professional activity?
Augusto Campos: Certainly. I’m Augusto Campos, entrepreneur, I’m 29 years old and I’ve always lived in Luanda. 3 years ago I started a start-up in the Hygiene and Sanitation sector. Since our launch in 2019, I can say that it was especially last year that we started to have more engagement and trust in the market, which translated into more customers.
We consider ourselves as a micro-enterprise that emerged during the Luanda garbage crisis. As you may know, given the level of this crisis, which was quite remarkable in 2021, the Government of Luanda launched a challenge to entrepreneurs, which we accepted. We worked at the beginning with some companies in the sector, we worked with some municipalities like Rangel and others, and we did the collection work that had to be done for the city.
We were even at the stage of a very large project. Then, the time came when the Government of Luanda had to make a selection of companies that would take the lead in the treatment of waste in the various districts of the city, and small companies like ours were meant to work as direct assistants to companies with greater capacity. Unfortunately, for essentially administrative reasons, this opportunity did not survive.
However, I still believe that we are in a good growth phase, namely with new contracts, which was possible because we were not limited to working with the Government of the city of Luanda alone, but extending our offer to the private sector. We have partnerships with several private companies, including Total, with whom we are negotiating at this moment.
What we’re looking for now is more growth. As is well known, Marketing is expensive, and Angola is no exception. We have several difficulties and challenges, so when I heard about the Africa-Marketplace.com platform and from what I understood from it, I decided to schedule a meeting immediately so as not to miss this opportunity to better understand your vision and method.
AM: How I like that action mentality! Our Africa-Marketplace team, like myself, strongly believes in immediate action. Simply waiting for tomorrow is the same as watching the sea without direction. To be sure of our future, we must take action today.
So, for our readers to be able to understand about your activity: what characterizes your company (ASSC Lda) in the market in relation to others?
AC: I would say that one of our characteristics is that despite being a micro company, we work not only in the collection of solid waste, but we also have building cleaning staff.
Next to this, we are taking a more ecological approach than other companies, which fits in with the challenges of the 21st century. One of the greatest issues of our time is the climate issue, a challenge to which we are not oblivious, as it affects us directly. We know, according to several studies, that African countries are not on the list of countries that pollute the most, because in general, they are not countries with large industries, and yet, they are countries that suffer the most.
That’s why we framed our waste collection activity in a recycling perspective. For example, we have an organic waste recycling project for the production of organic fertilizer. Our vision is based on the fact that the agriculture sector in Angola is growing a lot, being a market with a lot of investment, both state and private.
Among other things, ASSC noted that we have to take responsibility for the preservation of our soils. Many farmers use chemical fertilizers, which has consequences for the land itself, making the land infertile, but also consequences in terms of food, as we have already heard several stories that link human cancer to the feeding of products from farms using large amounts of chemical fertilizers.
I can say that we are pioneers in this segment. And we don’t want to stop here. Generally speaking, we want to transform waste into energy.
We have a lot of ideas, and we are always looking for support, investments… Here in Luanda, for a micro-company like ours, it is difficult to obtain this, as many focus on the fact that “there are already large companies”, and they are not very open to new ideas.
But still, we didn’t stop. In the case of organic fertilizers, for example, we are already in an experimental phase on a small scale, where we are already making the first productions and involving farmers in our development. And it is quite interesting to see that the farmers themselves are aware of the importance of this type of fertilizer, as it preserves the quality of the soil.
We are also working on the implementation of ecopoints. Here in Luanda there are not many because there is still not much environmental awareness. For this year, we are already committed to launching a series of lectures for schools and colleges here in Luanda with the aim of starting to change these aspects.
Because in fact, the garbage has to be separated, and we even demand that from our partners. In my view, the area of solid waste is the key to the whole climate issue. Because if it is true that we have a very large consumer society, it is also true that we still do not have the capacity to treat all the waste from this consumption. We also have other projects, such as the treatment of pollution of the oceans, seas, …
And many people who meet us ask themselves why we are this ambitious. We are told that Angola is not yet ready for these activities, that we do not have the means…
But for me, that’s not the point. The point is to actually start preparing for what is missing today.
For example, we are not really ready to receive “smart” cars in our country, because they require an entire infrastructure that could not be implemented overnight. But we already have companies that have electric cars! So why not start working to satisfy that need?
Things are changing, and whether we like it or not, that change will catch up with us, it’s inevitable. The sooner we prepare, the better.
Look at smartphones. After launching them in the countries of Europe and America, it didn’t take long for them to arrive in Luanda. Nowadays, the launches of new models are made in Angola with only 2-3 weeks of difference from more developed cities. If we, Angolan businessmen, do not make an effort and run after this, foreign businessmen will dominate our market.
I am not against foreign investment. I believe in free enterprise, open capital and competition. But I also believe that we have to learn to defend our own market and fight for it.
And there it is. These are our differentiating characteristics today.
AM: Very nice to hear this vision, and I share it completely. If something doesn’t exist, it has to be created! And that’s obviously what the ASSC is doing.
By the way, regarding the activity of your company, do you only operate in Luanda, or also in other provinces, or even outside Angola?
AC: We have ambitions to expand, but at the moment we are really only in Luanda. Some of our partners who are working with a hotel chain in Benguela, and have requested our services. So yes, we want to expand, and I would even say, outside Angola, for example in Portugal, where we think there is a market for our maid services. We are currently involved with the services of a lawyer to verify the possibilities. I really believe that there is a very large window of opportunity.
AM: I understand and I totally agree. What is currently missing, and what could accelerate your expansion?
AC: The main element is finances. Another issue is that the real estate sector in Angola is growing a lot and is very expensive. We want to install ourselves in strategic posts, and that is quite difficult. Luanda, Benguela and Cabinda are the 3 strategic points of this country. This is where there is the greatest investment, and it is therefore in these places that we want to be present in order to be able to grow together with the companies that will settle in those cities.
Today in Luanda, which is where we want to establish our strongest presence, as a micro-enterprise, we cannot charge the same prices as larger companies, even for reasons of marketing. But despite being of micro size, we still have a lot of expenses such as machines, motorcycles, personnel, facilities, internet, … All this weighs, and that is why we want to concentrate, in the city of Luanda, in strategic areas, where companies can be found that have the financial strength that will allow us to grow with them.
And then we have the very clear issue of monopoly. We know that in several sectors, despite respecting the regulations, we will not have much chance of competition. Not today at least.
But if we provide quality services to our current customers, we know that we will have the opportunity to be called for more services in other places or provinces where these customers are already operating. And I want to make it clear that this does not mean that we only target large companies, but also small ones, and those that are abroad.
ASSC is my main activity, but I have also always worked in the area of commerce, and this is what allows us to maintain a certain balance in our business.
AM: Very clear. What do you think about the economic situation and the relationship between economic actors, in Angola and in Africa in general?
AC: Thinking in general terms, I would say that Africa is a very big opening for foreign investors. But the problem is the legal instruments. An African Union with free trade and movement like that of the European Union is quite difficult, particularly for reasons of political conflicts. Today there are organizations such as ComonWealth, which Angola now wants to be a part of. This organization creates facilities for investors. But on the other hand, few African countries have legislation that is compatible with the functioning of these organizations, which makes it difficult for countries like ours to take advantage of foreign investors’ opportunities.
AM: This legal and infrastructural structure is indeed necessary. And at a relational and commercial level, what do you think of the visibility of entrepreneurs (opportunities) towards national and foreign investors? With the exception of the largest company in any sector, what is the probability for any investor to have knowledge and access to other companies in the competition? Do you recognize this as a difficulty?
AC: This difficulty exists in fact. When looking for a service, for example in basic sanitation, only the main companies appear in the list, namely with state support. Therefore, any foreign investor will have recourse to such companies in the first place. And it’s a big challenge that we have. How to define the space of each company? It is quite difficult to make yourself visible.
AM: It is precisely this need that Africa-Marketplace.com wants to satisfy. We want any company, in Angola and in Africa in general, to be able to register their services on our platform, and to be able to show what differentiates them from others, being able to immediately become visible not only to any potential client in Angola, but also outside Angola. Let’s imagine a client in Congo-Zaïre or another, who, for reasons of geographic proximity, financial or other reasons, wants to apply for a company in Angola. The customer will, as is to be expected, want to be open to as much competition as possible in order to obtain greater satisfaction with his order. It is therefore a great advantage. And of course, it’s also an advantage for any company who’d want to bid, because without the platform, one might not even have been alerted about the initial bidding opportunity!
We also observed that for financial reasons, i.a., several companies in Africa do not have sufficient capacity to devote themselves to marketing new customers. This obstacle is totally eliminated with our platform.
To conclude our interview, what would you recommend to any entrepreneur who wants to launch himself in the Angolan market?
AC: First of all, I would say that it is very important to do a good market research, and that you start your activities with a good partner to ensure financial stability. It was our case…
I have a question. Africa-Marketplace is completely free. Is this really true?
AM: I confirm, our platform is completely free. Our vision today is to be able to help as many companies as possible in the African market, because we know that there are many opportunities for everyone here. Once we are able to help a large number of companies, we know that we will all grow and that everyone will all have more business opportunities. And that’s why we made the decision to offer our services for free. The lack of economic infrastructure is partly caused by the limited number of relationships between companies within the continent, whether at a level of companies in relation to their customers or companies in relation to trading partners. Any company can go to our website, click on “Add my business” and follow the steps.
We have a support team that is always available to help.
AC: For us, in this first phase, it will be very useful. And I know that those around me will also welcome it because it is a great opportunity for any entrepreneur. We need that help in order to grow. Well done, and may God bless this project! That is my wish.
AM: Thank you.
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