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Exclusive interview with Willy de Smedt, general manager, DEM NIGERIA, a bronze sponsor at the upcoming Nigeria Mining Week in Abuja in October. 

“Next to oil, mining has high export potential offering a lot of opportunities to boost the Nigerian economy, attract foreign investors and opens sources of revenue for a wide variety of local operators”

Let’s start with some background on DEM Nigeria and your work in the mining sector?
The DEM Nigeria branch was incorporated March 2013 and with the prime mission to build out and put in place logistic, parts and service support to our clients in the Nigerian market.

Our portfolio based on premium brands of mobile construction, forestry, land clearing and mining equipment, fully designed and manufactured by Hitachi Construction Machinery Ltd and John Deere C&F integrates overall logistic, parts and service support.

A strong Trade Finance Network of the parent Cy, DEM Group as well as the support of our OEMs for Remote and Real Time monitoring of Equipment and building Training capability for Operators and Maintenance personnel confirm our commitment to offer solution packages to our EndUsers.

Any projects that you are involved in in Nigeria that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
Several key operators in South-Southern and South-Western as well as North-Central confirmed partnership to DEM Nigeria through the acquisition of Hitachi Excavators, John Deere Wheelloaders – Dozers – Backhoe Loaders – Motorgraders and SkidSteer Loaders thus totaling today some 200 active Units throughout the regions.

Amongst these are confirmed operators as Morpol, Julius Berger, AG Vision, Kakatar Group, Sinohydro, Lagos State Public Works…

The years 2016 and 2017 have been a severe economic challenge, putting pressure on the dynamic growth of the organization, established with full support of our OEMs Hitachi and John Deere C&F.

This gave us the opportunity to show agility, to adapt to the market environment thus confirming our commitment and continuity of presence and support.

In order to optimize visibility and accessibility, DEM Nigeria moved towards Victoria Island, Lagos in June 2017, in the center of Nigeria’s economic capital and closer to its clients.

Beginning 2018, a Business Development Hub in FCT Abuja has been launched and recently, in July 2018, DEM Nigeria inaugurated a new Exhibition and Machine Inventory Plot at Victoria Island, Lagos.

Considering the challenges of our clients, DEM Nigeria puts a strong focus on on-site support and prepares to spread aftersales hubs towards the South-Southern, South-Western, North-Central and FCT Abuja Regions.

DEM Group, parent Company of DEM Nigeria provides full knowledge and operational support based on active relationships with OCP Morocco, the largest phosphate mine worldwide (Hitachi Trucks 180T EH3500 and Excavator 400T EX3600), Glencore and several Copper Mine Operators (Hitachi ZX870 and EX1200 and John Deere C&F ADT 410E) in Katanga, DR Congo as well as in Ghana Gold Mining & Quarrying (Hitachi ZX350, EX1200 and EX1900 and John Deere C&F Dozer 850J and Motorgrader 870G).

What in your view are the challenges to taking the mining sector in Nigeria to the next level?
Three main challenges:
1-Continue to update geological data and resource information
2-Increase infrastructure development
3-Ensure security and continue to address illegal mining

Update geoscience data and information
Now that the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) moves forward with high resolution airborne survey and mapping, this will surely contribute to provide accurate information on mining opportunities.

Increase infrastructure development
Nigeria’s mining sector is currently facing a severe lack of power and infrastructure holding back mining activities, however, foreign and local companies are pooling expertise and technology to mitigate productivity losses. A cooperation agreement was recently signed between South Africa and Nigeria to provide technical expertise in order to support the industrialisation of the sector.

Nigeria has an existing rail network which can play a major role for the development of iron ore mining which requires “high volume / weight” transport.

Security and illegal mining
The uncertainties around security and illegal mining practices could raise concerns for potential investors interested in Nigeria’s mining sector. Mining houses and key stakeholders are aware of the need to cover the questions around security on site, crime, kidnapping and general terrorism.

Small scale mining creates revenue for a high number of local operators throughout the territory, requiring comprehensive and transparent administrative guidelines attached to the SSML Titles.

What is your vision for the mining sector in Nigeria?
Nigeria has rich and diversified natural resources, gold/copper and iron have gained value on the global markets thus creating opportunities to boost export and to support in-country manufacturing (copper, steel).

Iron ore is a typical operation requiring “high volume & weight” transport, iron ore is present in North-Central and can be connected to the existing rail.
Next to oil, mining has high export potential offering a lot of opportunities to boost the Nigerian economy, attract foreign investors and opens sources of revenue for a wide variety of local operators.

As for oil, mining requires manpower with different levels of skills and competencies and in several disciplines thus contributing to development of the community.

Why the decision to partner with Nigeria Mining Week.
Attending the Nigeria Mining Week October 15th to 17th – 2018 in Abuja will offer our partners and clients an opportunity to update on the growth of our presence, the adaptability of our portfolio, all to support the premium brand machinery of Hitachi and John Deere C&F.

How important is it for the country to showcase its mining potential?
To recover the ground it lost in the past three decades due to a policy context that was hostile to business and then establish Nigeria as a competitive African mining country and mineral processing centre.

What will be your message at the event?
With its portfolio based on premium brands of mining and construction equipment, integrating overall logistic, parts and service support, DEM NIGERIA is fully committed to offer premium solution packages to our partners.

We trust the potential of the Nigeria market and confirm continuity of presence and support, further investing in our local team and intensifying our footprint.