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Tunisia: BIAT innovates and creates its own consulting firm in Africa: BIAT Consulting

Heading off to Africa seems to be the slogan of Tunisian companies right now. A move dictated by economic logic given the huge scope for the growth of African nations and their needs in almost all sectors.

More and more African countries are using their natural resources to open very wide horizons, sometimes even with double-digit growth in perspective. Some Tunisian companies have for years laid very solid foundations in Africa and have developed strategies to grow exponentially in the continent. This is the case of BIAT Consulting, which was created at the initiative of the President of the Board of BIAT, Ismail Mabrouk.

Its Director General, Mohamed Hadiji, graduated from the National School of Statistics and Economic Administration in Paris, agreed to tell African Manager about his African experience and ongoing projects to have greater growth on the continent.

Interview:

– Tell us about your structure. What is its scope of action?

BIAT Consulting is a subsidiary of BIAT Group that was established there nearly two years ago. Indeed, the BIAT Group, which already offers a wide range of financial products and services such as banking, insurance, asset management, securities brokerage and private equity, has completed its offer by the consulting activity.

BIAT Consulting is specialized in consulting, exchange of expertise, know-how and international training, particularly on the African market. On our continent, we specifically target Francophone Africa – West Africa and Central Africa – and the Maghreb. Our work focuses on the management of missions and project management in the different types of bank business, whether commercial activity or support functions (management control, audit, HR, etc.).

BIAT Consulting is based primarily on a mix of practice: whether active or retired, employees having a sharp business expertise can participate in consulting or conduct training among partners in Africa.

We also have our own consultants. In fact, it all depends on the mission, the needs of the moment and forged partnerships.

What have you developed in the immediate future to better establish your reputation in Africa?

Better communication, it is the customers. We now have a number of references on the continent. We are present in four African countries in terms of consulting. We work with the leading private bank in Mauritania. For 2 years we have been conducting a mission of organization and implementation of a new strategy. We began by studying the Mauritanian

market. This allowed us to identify the specificity of the local banking sector and establish similarities with that of Tunisia. We are now putting in place the transformation plan by prioritizing macro-projects with a strong dimension in terms of change management.

We also operate in Chad, accompanying a medium-sized bank specialized in the business market around three structuring projects.

We also operate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in a leading bank that is owned by an Indian group. After conducting an initial diagnostic mission, we have proposed a range of solutions to improve processes. The technical partnership involves the implementation of a management control system to improve the control and decision support tools.

Our fourth reference is a private bank in Abidjan, owned by a business group. We have been asked to work on two areas: the organization of the business and the start of an operational efficiency project. In parallel, we conducted two training missions to Benin and Burkina Faso.

One is on assistance in cash management and the other on optimizing risk management. There are factors that contribute to the success of BIAT Consulting in Francophone Africa.

BIAT has a path for 40 years and led several strategic plans. We are making available to our African friends and partners the expertise and experience of BIAT in the field of strategic projects. Furthermore, this adds value to Tunisian skills on the continent.

What do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition, which is already active in the field? Even big Western banks have set their sights on Africa…

BIAT wished to approach Africa in a methodical and organized manner. BIAT Consulting was born in this context. First, starting with good knowledge of the African market – customs, banking practices … – BIAT Consulting has twofold goals: build cooperative relationships with financial stakeholders in Africa and allow BIAT and more generally Tunisia to know the expectations and needs of the African market. This is why executives of BIAT regularly travel to Africa; we also welcome delegations of African bankers.

This engagement and exchange with Africa are not only beneficial for BIAT but also for Tunisia of which Africa is a natural and interesting extension with a very promising economic potential.

Is the Business climate on the continent conducive to the development of structures such as yours?

Yes it does. There are plenty of things to do. There is room for improvement in terms of governance, best practices, hedging risks, etc. Surely, there are differences, but in general, there are corrections to be made everywhere. A very simple and very telling index is the banking rate.

In West Africa and Central Africa, statistics show the banking rate is 7 to 15%. This rate is 90% to 100% in European countries and 55% in Tunisia. 80% to 90% of Africans are therefore excluded from traditional banking channels. Yet there is a very promising economic potential

in the region. It just needs strong banks, well organized and with specific offers to support the development of African economies.

SME financing, housing financing, development of electronic banking therefore present challenges for African banks in the coming decades.

To my mind, some African banks will be called upon to initiate transformation plans and develop human capital to cope with changes. BIAT Consulting proposes to accompany them.

Do you have growth assumptions on the continent in the medium or long term?

We have a development plan over three years from 2016 to 2018. We have objectives in terms of business, conquering markets, particularly in our target countries in Francophone Africa, which have the advantage of having a common currency, the CFA franc. We have already entered 6 countries in sub-Saharan Africa; we plan to make it 8 in 2016, 10 in 2017…

In the coming years, BIAT Consulting will act together with its 4 major customers to ensure that ratios are rising, profitability surges forward and productivity increases. It is essential to consolidate the gains before considering any development.

What are you working on now and what are your priorities?

I’m leaving soon for Abidjan, our partner, to accompany a team of experts from BIAT. I also participate in a banking forum in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. It will be an opportunity to network with professionals from the continent and take the temperature of the sector. Along with this, monitoring and exploration missions continue. In short, we remain focused with lots of great projects on the horizon!

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