Liam Gover, Fircroft CBE’s Business Manager was recently interviewed for MACIG; The Official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide, discussing Fircroft’s operations in Mozambique and the wider East Africa region.
What is the relationship between Fircroft and CBE Southern Africa (“CBESA”) and how does the Mozambique office fit into this scheme?
Liam Gover (LG): Fircroft is a global business. Part of our strategy for the coming years is to continue to invest in Africa, particularly Mozambique and the rest of East Africa. We historically had some activity on Mozambique projects through our long-term relationship with Anadarko, although this relationship was managed from the Houston office. Mozambique is home to several major projects, and we are now a local Mozambican business that is well established in country to support our clients as these projects come online. It was never a question of whether or not we should set up a local presence in an office here, but what would be the best way to embrace the local market and have genuine local market knowledge. We chose CBE Southern Africa because, with over 20 years of operations, they were well networked in the country. We have offices in Pemba, Palma, Tete, Biera, and Nacala. Our international oil and gas expertise with strong local network will allow us to support our client’s international, national, and local content-resource solutions.
Given that neither of the main gas projects has got underway yet, how is demand for your services?
LG: Although the projects with ENI, Shell, and Anadarko are still at early stages we are seeing fairly high levels of activity. We have a multi-disciplinary portfolio that gives us flexibility in the market. We are keen to invest time with our customers and in the community so that we can provide real solutions as liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are coming through their decision milestones. We expect 2016 to be a transformation year.
Fircroft is renowned for its high level recruitment and executive search capabilities, but are you also able to mobilize a large local workforce for construction projects?
LG: Absolutely. We are a full human resources (HR) service provider, although historically we have specialized in the provision of contract manpower. CBESA has done that for Vale, for example. We have moved away from your typical recruitment service to more of a HR solutions provider. Our expertise is to approach our client’s needs holistically, and we have the national network in Mozambique to support the mobilization of large workforce.
When it comes to placing more advanced roles, including engineers, technicians, managers, and so on, are there any resources for that in Mozambique or are you bringing in expatriates?
LG: It is important to continue to support the development of local Mozambican talent. This is consistent to the approach that we take across all of the geo-markets we are in. Each role is unique and we have to look at the skills requirement individually. There is Mozambican talent getting experience globally and there are good engineers and senior-level people who have worked on mining projects. Our role is to ensure that we identify this talent where possible. There are transferable skills between the two industries. It is simply a question of finding out what their ambitions are now and seeing if we can support their career development through the opportunities available in Mozambique.
Among the expatriate engineering community, what kind of image does Mozambique have? Is it seen as a hardship post and does this affect salary levels?
LG: If people know nothing about Mozambique, they will probably think of it as a difficult work environment. But once they get more knowledge, they tend to change their opinion. It is our role to help inform potential candidates of the local environment so they can take smart choices. Salary levels are always benchmarked so the pay for roles in Mozambique needs to be competitive. Quality roles are scarcer, and people are on the lookout for the best opportunity.
Having moved to Mozambique from Tanzania, how would you compare the business environment in the two countries?
LG: The business environment for contract recruitment in Tanzania is complicated due to the legislation passed by the Tanzanian government. Mozambique is further ahead in that sense. We are keen to invest and develop our business in both countries and feel that there are a lot of synergies in being in both markets.
You mention that Fircroft would be focusing heavily on East Africa. What other markets are you currently targeting?
LG: We are not focusing solely on East Africa. We have been present in Angola since 2008, and have an operation in Ghana and Gabon. Nigeria is one market we have to review in West Africa. East Africa, on the other hand, is still very new to us. We are really trying to invest and learn to make sure we are set up in the right way to support the market as it develops. In terms of other locations, we are in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. We have particular strength in Angola and Mozambique.
Several international recruitment companies have recently set up offices in Maputo. How do you find the competition here?
LG: We have a significant regional network and infrastructure in Mozambique. There are other recruiters present in the country but there is just no comparison. Competition is good but we are the best recruitment company in Mozambique. We focus to bring innovative solutions across workforce sourcing and management, global mobility, payroll and other bespoke services that have significant people based delivery and knowledge requirement. Last but not least, most importantly, we operate with strong regard to global compliancy standards to ensure we protect the brands of our customers.
With regard to the future, you have been here since September, by this time next year where do you hope to see the company and what do you hope to have accomplished?
LG: I am spending a lot of time continuing to invest in developing our people and in our systems. I would like to see our service delivery strengthen. Hopefully the oil and gas projects will move forward in a reasonable timeframe and we see a transformed Mozambique.
Lastly, do you have a final message for our readers, key investors in the oil, gas, and mining Industries? In fact, why Mozambique and why Fircroft CBESA?
LG: Mozambique is known for its beaches and its safaris. The forthcoming LNG development is going to transform the country and its people. Why would your readers not want to share in this experience and contribute to this change? Mozambique is a fantastic location, with a fantastic culture and a great place to be. As for CBESA, there is no company in Mozambique that has our expertise and depth, both at a local and global level. We look forward to supporting both candidates and corporates with innovative solutions to support their growth and ambitions.