World No. 1 in maritime transport, Italian-Swiss MSC will acquire Vincent Bolloré’s Bolloré Africa Logistics for €5.7 billion. MSC, which is run by the family of its founder Gianluigi Aponte, was looking to develop its African network.
It would be an insult to the intelligence of Gianluigi Aponte to assert that he owes his fortune to his relatives. However, thanks to the capital provided by his wife Raffaella, the daughter of a Swiss banker, the young captain Aponte bought his first cargo ship in 1969.
The son of an Italian sailor who was then living in Somalia set out on a shipping adventure before taking on the role of container ships in the 1980s, then the Italian-Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Group acquired a global dimension.
Now, it handles 21.5 million containers each year in more than 40 ports around the world. This family business, with carefully protected capital, is also very popular among French leaders. Alexis Koehler, the right-hand man of Emmanuel Macron, is already linked to the Aponte family. It also suspected collusion of interests with the MSC group.
However, Paris considers this proximity to be an asset in maintaining commercial centers and good relations with African leaders. As for MSC, which is very present in road transport in Africa with its subsidiary Medlog and 650 trucks, it has consolidated its assets in the ports for several years.
The semi-monopolistic situation in Lomé
But if all licenses are obtained and the takeover of Bolloré Africa Logistics materializes, MSC will become a juggernaut in West Africa, according to our correspondent in Abidjan, Peter Pinto. In Côte d’Ivoire, Bolloré operates the first container terminal in the Autonomous Port of Abidjan. And soon the second, in a consortium with its partner APM Terminals, a subsidiary of the Danish port company Maersk.
This second terminal, which should be operational in a few months, will give the port of Abidjan another dimension that will enable it to compete with its neighbors in the region: Tema in Ghana, where Bollore is also located, but above all, Lome or Lagos. The French share the port with the Chinese at the Chinese merchant ports, the Italians from Grimaldi, and Maersk in particular.
It is really the end of an era in which there was also political rent due to the proximity of the African powers to the powers in Paris.
Antoine Glaser is a journalist and author of several books on relations between France and Africa
In Lomé, by taking over the activities of the Bolloré, MSC which has established its continental center in Togo, will find itself in a virtual monopoly on container traffic. Still in the region, the MSC has already been set up in San Pedro, in western Côte d’Ivoire, an exit port for Ivorian raw materials and a gateway to some countries in the hinterland.
Away from the ports, MSC will also serve landlocked countries in the sub-region. First of all thanks to Sitarail. This branch of the Bolloré connects Abidjan to Ouagadougou by rail via Bobo-Dioulasso. Before Covid-19, it was transporting 200,000 passengers and 900,000 tons of cargo annually. The Italian-Swiss group will also be able to rely on several dry ports: three in Bamako, one in Kayes, Mali, two in Ouagadougou, and one in Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso.
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