Luc Rigouzzo, Chairman-Manager of Amethis Finance
The Chairman-Manager of Amethis Finance, which holds a 33% stake in Velogic, draws up a very positive assessment of their three-year collaboration. He also considers that Rogers’ logistic centre is an “excellent example of good corporate governance.”
What does governance mean for Amethis?
Amethis is a responsible long-term investor. The second part of our name: ‘ethis’, indicates our commitment towards reaching the best standards as regards environment, social responsibility and governance (ESG). The founding team built its professional competence in the field of development banks dedicated to the private sector [Proparco, the International Finance Corporation (IFC)] and keeps stringent requirements in these fields.
Good governance is probably the most important of their three pillars. It is, by definition, essential to ensure the achievement of our engagements towards the two other pillars, as well as its importance in respect of all other aspects of the company, especially managerial and financial. It is one of the keys to the success of a company, as has been the case for Velogic.
How important is good governance in your new partnerships?
We prefer entering into partnerships with companies having, like us, a high level of ambition as regards governance because this determines the quality of the improvements which we can plan together. The Rogers group, for example, already had a strong internal audit department, from which Velogic benefited when we started our collaboration and a high-standard of governance, with strict requirements in terms of environmental and social management.
Generally speaking, for Amethis, the family-run companies that we approach share a clear and common will to structure their management into building a sound governance framework: board of directors open to individuals allowing for a thorough review of the activities of the company, definition of the growth strategy, rationalisation and formalisation of the decision-making process, or implementation of strategic committees for the monitoring of specific projects (acquisitions, expansion, etc.). Good governance may affect various aspects of management for the proper functioning, the fluidity and the transparency in the decision-making process.
Amethis thus seeks to be an active stakeholder and work alongside its partners by supporting them in their mission to improve and reinforce their governance framework, conscious of the crucial role good governance plays in the development of a company aspiring to become a national or regional champion. African companies show a growing interest in the implementation of good governance practice that adhere strictly to rigorous international standards and Mauritian companies often position themselves as leaders of their field in the region.
Good governance also transpires in the positive relationship between the company and the community within which it is built and Velogic is an example to follow when it comes to this, with a strong engagement through its policy of corporate social responsibility (CSR), in collaboration with the Rogers Foundation. Their motto, ‘to educate with an engagement to support sustainable development’, shows the long-term commitment of Velogic, while always keeping the community in mind.
What is your assessment after three years of partnership with Velogic?
The result of these years of partnership with Velogic is sincerely very positive and we are delighted with the progress we made together so far.
From the early days of our collaboration, the board of directors set up an action plan focusing on the environmental and social questions, of health and security which was a result of the due diligence that we had commissioned to an independent cabinet specialised in the field of ESG. This plan was successfully endorsed by all of the managers of Velogic: beyond the investments made by Velogic on its various sites, it is especially the reinforcement of the culture of social and environmental responsibility at the management level which was important. Encouraged ‘to lead by example’, they made it their priority to set up this action plan at their level and to evaluate its evolution themselves. This unity within the teams working around this initiative would not have been possible without a high standard of good governance practice.
The principal effort carried out by Velogic these last few years was on the quality management system in relation to health and safety at work. The company recently obtained the OSHAS 18000 certification and is in the first quartile of the controlled companies, witnessing the quality of its new management system with regards to these factors. Velogic has indeed rendered applicable to its suppliers its health and safety and has reinforced its procedures of safety with regards to the handling of machines as well as those having regard to fire safety. It also rendered systematic the control of these aspects, making it possible to ensure an ongoing conformity within the company, and set up a system of reporting of potential accidents which makes it possible to better monitor these challenges, which is essential for the company and its employees. Finally, with regards to the environmental aspect, Velogic has also improved its management of waste throughout its entire work chain.
The rigorous follow-up of these stakes is possible through the good governance practices within Velogic and the support of the head office: Rogers. We review these various topics during meetings with the boards of directors and the support of the management team is essential.
At Amethis, we are convinced that this improvement of the aspects of the governance goes hand in hand with the overall success of a company, and it was once more demonstrated through Velogic, which saw its activities, its performance and its strategy grow these last few years, topped off with a first success with the strategic acquisition carried out in East Africa in 2016. The development of standards of governance and a culture unified through various establishments (Maurice, Kenya, Reunion, Europe…) form part of the success of Velogic and we are proud of this partnership tied between our fund and this key logistics operator in the Indian Ocean.
Would you say that the sharing of expertise has been beneficial?
The division of know-how between Amethis and Velogic was, and clearly continues to be mutually beneficial.
The Amethis team was truly reinforced in their comprehension and knowledge of the logistics business: understanding the market and the challenges related to the development of the various lines of business. We learn alongside a committed and professional team whose qualities are to be shared with the other companies of our portfolio.
Similary, beyond financial contribution, Amethis actively supports Velogic in its African expansion strategy: in the identification and the analysis of the various opportunities for acquisition in East Africa and in structuring their operations. Via our international network and our strategic vision, we continue to this day to work alongside the management of Velogic to consolidate its leading position in the Indian Ocean and to continue its expansion throughout Africa.
This alliance shows the creation of value which can stem from a partnership between an ambitious Mauritian company, equipped with high standard of management, and investment funds dedicated to Africa, with a network of African, French and international partners.
What are your observations concerning the governance practice within Rogers’ logistic centre and within the group as a whole?
Rogers’ logistic centre is, without any doubt, an excellent example of the good corporate governance necessary for optimal and transparent management of a company. Its board of directors, which meets practically on a quarterly basis and in which internal and external administrators take part, allows all of its shareholders to have a clear vision on the company’s activity, its projects of acquisition and expansion.
We are minority shareholders with one third of the capital alongside the Rogers group. The relations between Velogic and its parent company are also completed in total transparency and the entity profits wholly from the Rogers standard of governance.
A final word…
To conclude, I would say that Velogic is a good example of the advantages of Mauritius. A company with management meeting the best international standards, who initially built a logistic platform operating in the Indian Ocean, establishing a link between Asia, Africa and Europe. It has all the potential to project itself on the African and Asian continents in collaboration with other local or international specialised operators. History is being written and we are only at the beginning of this African or Asian projection, but the first pages are already full of promise, and the standard of its governance is an essential element in this ambitious project.
Rogers’ logistic centre is an excellent exemple of the good corporate governance.
Three decades alongside African companies.
Cofounder in 2011 of Amethis Finance, an investment vehicle dedicated to the African continent, Luc Rigouzzo is the Chairman-manager and co-leads the executive committee which supervises the activities and the investments of the company. Graduate in agronomy and finance, he has spent more than 30 years in advising African companies and investing in companies of average size with significant potential. From June 2006 to December 2010, he was the managing director of Proparco, French financial institution of development specialised in sustainable and the long-term investments in emerging countries. Luc Rigouzzo also wrote several articles relating to development economics in magazines such as Field Actions Science Reports, The Tribune, The Nouvel Economiste, L’Express or African Banker.