Engineers & Planners Company Ltd – A Very Ghanaian Mining Company
We learn how Engineers & Planners Company Ltd is competing against multinationals, and pushing for a greater role for indigenous Ghanaian mining.
Engineers & Planners Company Ltd, or E&P for short, is the largest wholly indigenous Ghanaian-owned mining and construction contracting company in West Africa. E&P was founded by Mr. Ibrahim Mahama in 1997. Since its inception, E&P has successfully completed world-class projects in construction, mining, tailings, site construction, land reclamation, and more.
“E&P has the capacity, experience and expertise to deliver on major hard rock mining projects,” says Emmanuel Erskine, Business Improvement & Development Director of E&P. “It has mining projects within and outside Ghana, especially in Liberia. For the past 25 years, E&P has gained considerable experience in hard rock mining.”
What makes E&P special is that it is a young company without the usual bureaucratic malaise of its larger and better-established counterparts.
“Decision-making is very quick and our response time is short. We can adapt to changing conditions a lot easier than major contracting companies,” explains Majeed Abudu, Technical Director of E&P. “Our structure allows us to be agile in decision making and minimise bureaucratic processes, speeding up decision-making processes.”
At the same time, E&P has also built a reputation for itself as a trusted and collaborative partner.
“When there are any contractual disputes rather than resorting to litigation E&P will typically go for the option of dialogue to determine a solution for both parties, cementing our relationships past and present,” Abudu points out. “As a local company within West Africa, E&P are able to resolve local issues and issues within the sub-region that may adversely affect operations. That’s our unique selling point as a company.”
A National Company on an International Stage
As an indigenous company in a market primarily occupied by huge multinationals, E&P can face unique challenges.
“The number one challenge an indigenous company faces in this part of the world is access to capital,” Abudu says. “E&P has grown and outgrown our financing entities within the country. You need in the region of $100 million to finance a new project and local banks do not have that capacity. So that is one of the biggest challenges we have. Financing is also more expensive in this region than it is in the locations where international companies are gaining their financing. It makes competition with international entities very difficult.”
Where it lacks the contacts or sheer financial backing that its competition can bring to bear, E&P responds with a stellar track record.
“We have a good track record on performance on the job,” Abudu says. “On all the work we’ve done for our clients we’ve over-performed. That has persuaded investors to take a risk on us and they have not regretted it since. Clients are supporting us and we’ve been able to raise finance.”
Of course, the secret to that track record is a strong pool of talent, and fortunately, E&P has some fantastic resources to draw on in this regard.
“Our approach is to attract expatriate Ghanaian labour. Ghana has been doing mining since the 1960s so there are a lot of experienced Ghanaians, some of who have left the country,” Erskine says. “Our approach has been to bring them back home and pay them expatriate salaries.”
Part of the appeal for new recruits is that as a purely Ghanaian company E&P is continually investing back into the country.
“It has made E&P very popular in Ghana. We’ve done quite a bit,” Erskine says. “We’ve constructed and renovated clinics, there is a stretch of road that E&P constructed, as well as access roads to churches and communities. We undertook the dredging of one of the main drainage channels in the Accra metropolis. In the fight against COVID-19, we have done a lot of valuable work. E&P has donated handwashing machines to universities and communities in Ghana. We also donated an anaesthetic machine to the theatre of the University of Ghana Medical Centre which is actively handling COVID-19 patients.”
The ability to make these contributions to local communities is part of the reason why Erskine and Abudu are so passionate about Ghana’s home-grown mining industry.
“Ghana is a mining hub with expertise and resources,” Erskine points out. “We have mining resources and we have the expertise to match. We believe indigenous companies should be given the opportunity to participate in the mining industry in Ghana.”
Indeed, as Abudu points out, many international companies coming into Ghana soon find themselves relying on local talent.
“International companies set up the mine, but as mining contractors, we can do the contract mining for them,” Abudu explains. “They contract mining work to local entities and so part of their investment stays within the country.”
Ghana has laws requiring mining operations to use local content, but Erskine believes the involvement of indigenous companies, as in-house regulators, is the only reliable way to enforce those rules.
“There’s a law on local content in Ghana, but the best way to police it is policing ourselves,” he says. “If we are actively participating in the mining activities, we are best positioned to propagate best practices to the communities of all nations. There is no shame greater than the pollution in the mining industry elsewhere in the world. Indigenous companies like E&P form a channel to translate the best practices to the community as a whole.”
Indeed, for E&P itself the next step is to move beyond contracting and go into the business of operating a mine for themselves.
“After 25 years of contracting, and probably three or four more to go, we’re working towards becoming a mine owner and operator for ourselves,” Abudu tells us. “That is the next step of our organic expansion. We believe that having been a contractor over the years we will be in a better position to operate a mine economically and create better returns on our investment. As a corporate entity, our plan for the future is to acquire a property, a new concession, and be able to operate it.”