Top International: Expanding In West Africa

The Singapore-headquartered company taps new partnerships to build a port to support its global business.
From left: Mr Ji Shaobo, President of Yantai Port Group; Mr Seydouba Bangoura, Director of Societe Bauxite Kimbo SA Unipersonelle; Dato’ Victor Tan, CEO of Top International Holding; Mr G. Jayakrishnan, Global Markets Director, Middle East and Africa, Enterprise Singapore, at MOU signing ceremony.

Already one of only a handful of Singaporean companies operating in Guinea, Top International Holding is making further inroads into the West African nation with plans to build a port along one of its major waterways. The mining and trading group specializes in the export of bauxite—the raw material for aluminum production—as well as the trading of coal. Over the years, it has expanded its operations into a number of markets, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa.

In February, plans for the port along Guinea’s Fatala River came closer to fruition when Top International signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China’s Yantai Port Group and Guinea’s Societe Bauxite Kimbo SA Unipersonelle (Kimbo) to embark on its development. Another member of this partnership is Singapore’s Winning International Group, which will provide maritime-logistics support to the venture.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr G. Jayakrishnan, Global Markets Director, Middle East and Africa at Enterprise Singapore, said the MOU reflected growing ties between Asia and Africa, and the economic dynamism of the two regions.

When completed, the port will serve selected mining concessions and help fuel the growth of Top International’s bauxite business in the country.

“Discussions of this port project have now reached a mature stage, where all parties agree that a more formal understanding in the form of an MOU is the logical next step. With this MOU, we expect our momentum to increase and we are one step closer to achieving the goals of our collaboration,” said Dato’ Victor Tan, Chief Executive Officer of Top International, in a speech at the MOU signing ceremony.

Yantai Port Group is a China state-owned enterprise with more than 150 years of experience in building and operating ports around the world, including Guinea. At the signing ceremony, Yantai Port Group President Ji Shaobo said the company has established an international bauxite-logistics chain that connects Guinea to China as part of its overseas expansion strategy. He noted that in 2018, Yantai Port was the world’s leading port for bauxite imports for the sixth consecutive year, having exceeded 100 million tons in throughput. Meanwhile, bauxite-exploration company Kimbo has been granted mining concessions in Guinea, signifying it has the support of the government.

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Dato’ Victor Tan said the development of the Guinea project will be carried out in phases to enable the group to progressively scale the port in terms of capacity and operational efficiency. The project will also include a network of roads connecting the port to the relevant concessions. “The project may seem complex, but with the combined strength of our collaboration, the outcome will be greater than the sum of its parts,” he said.

Looking ahead, he hopes to see a growing community of Singaporean businesses operating in the largely untapped markets of West Africa. “The insights we’ve garnered in Guinea have shown us that there are a lot more opportunities beyond Southeast Asia,” he said. “What we need is to have a broad mindset, be enterprising and not be afraid to seek out new markets outside of our comfort zone; all of this, of course, with proper planning and having the right partners.”

 
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