We speak to GIAD Industrial Group’s Chairman, Al-Amin Mohammed Ahmed (AA), about its role in the industrialisation of the country, the modernisation of agriculture in Sudan and the Group’s capacity to work with different industries and projects
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LE: Please tell us about the history of GIAD and how the Group is taking advantage of Africa’s rich growth potential.
AA: GIAD was established in 1993. At that time, Sudan was overwhelmingly a traditional agricultural country. We depended mainly on crops like cotton, which were being produced in the Gezira State over a total surface of about one million hectares. Other rain-irrigated crops like sorghum and sesame were also grown. Being dependent on one sector as the main source of economic growth is not a sign of a healthy economy, so it was time to diversify, hence GIAD was established.
GIAD not only headed the industrialisation of Sudan, but pioneered technological developments in the country and the wider region. We began with the assembly of cars and light industry. In 20 years we developed from light industry to a medium industry through the manufacturing of cars and steel bars, cables, alloys, aluminium products and other metal-based products.
The industries with which we are involved were introduced to Sudan by GIAD. I think we have been pioneers for others, especially for private sector companies. The private sector will not participate in any sort of investment unless they see a success story. We assumed the role of pioneer and started our industry in our country and we are still leading the industrialisation of Sudan today. That was our main role: to diversify the economy of our country. Instead of being 100% dependent on agriculture (it is not good to build your economy on climatic fluctuations), we diversified and began our extremely successful activities as GIAD.
LE: How is GIAD looking to position itself over the next decade to take advantage of all the growth opportunities in Sudan?
AA: The agricultural sector is one of our main areas of interest. The first factories we started out with as GIAD were for assembling and manufacturing agricultural equipment. Now we are one of the largest and most successful agricultural equipment manufacturers in the region. Investing in the sector was of strategic importance, as the industry had, and continues to have, a lot of untapped potential. We like to talk about agriculture in the modern sense. The traditional way our parents used to practice agricultural activities is no longer an economical way to tap into such resources. Because of this, we started to manufacture agricultural equipment and modernise irrigation methods, and to introduce new farming technology to Sudan. Specifically regarding irrigation, and taking advantage of the large water reserves in the country, we introduced pivotal irrigation.
We have a good relationship with the majority of foreign companies interested in this industry. For instance, some Sudanese agricultural companies have established relationships with US firms, since the lifting of sanctions on agricultural equipment.
LE: Apart from agriculture, what type of partnerships are you looking for and where can foreign investors add value to GIAD?
AA: We are looking for investors and partners who can add value in terms of knowhow, capital and market potential. These are the criteria we desire and to date we have been successful, to some extent, in finding international partners. In truck manufacturing, we enjoy excellent cooperation with Germany’s MAN. We work well with France’s Renault and in Asia Pacific we often cooperate with car manufacturers like Hyundai. We are also open to partnerships in China.
LE: What specific project are you most excited about and do you see has the greatest potential?
AA: In the coming years, we will be focusing our efforts on infrastructural projects. When we speak about infrastructure, we specifically mean roads and railways. There is currently a major railway project which will be financed by the Islamic Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This involves the construction of a 4,000km railway line from Dakar in Senegal to Port Sudan.
We are also starting to concentrate on renewable energies, particularly solar power, as Sudan is the perfect country in which to harness solar energy. There is sunshine 365 days a year, which can be taken advantage of. If we succeed in infrastructure development, we will be successful in supporting all the upcoming industries in Sudan. We are looking to become a game changer for the country.
LE: China is a significant investor in Sudan and has used the country as a gateway to the continent. How is GIAD looking to position itself to attract more Chinese partners?
AA: China’s Silk Road initiative is mainly aimed at Africa. As you know, there is tough competition from the world’s economic powerhouses to see how they can benefit from Africa’s extensive natural and human resources. China and Sudan have a great history of cooperation, which started in the oil industry, but rapidly expanded to other sectors.
As far as cooperation with China is concerned, we think we can really benefit from our initiatives and have prepared our infrastructural projects for completion with Chinese partners.
LE: What is your final message to international investors who may be considering forming partnerships with GIAD?
AA: It is very simple: come and join us for a win-win strategy. We are willing and able to explore the many opportunities for all investors looking to invest in the country. GIAD can be an ideal long-term partner for you in Sudan.