Another expert on board at SRK Ghana
The Accra office of global engineering consultants SRK Consulting has been boosted by the addition of Ghanaian geological engineer and mineral resource geologist Eric Owusu Acheampong.
With almost three decades in the industry, Acheampong has worked in Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa; he graduated initially from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, later doing his MSc in mineral resources at the University of Wales in Cardiff.
He said:e saiH “I’ve been associated with SRK since the late 1990s when I did my master’s degree in Wales. About 80 percent of the programme’s faculty tutorship was done by SRK staff from the Cardiff office.
“I had also used the services of SRK consultants on a number of projects, and admired the professionalism and the quality of the mining solutions SRK offered.
“My preference to continue my career at this stage with SRK stems from that long association and knowing also that the company is employee-owned.”
Acheampong is enthusiastic about current levels of mineral exploration in West Africa and the future of the region.
“There seems to be a positive turn-around in the political arena in West Africa lately, with successful democratic elections in Guinea and Liberia, and some political stability returning to Côte d’Ivoire,” he said.
“All of this has contributed to heightened exploration activity in the sub-region recently, at least until falling commodity prices (especially gold) slowed down the tempo in the last year and a half.”
In this context, though, let’s remember that the review of some mining codes in certain countries had mixed effects. Some governments have proposed to take a higher stake in potential developments in the mining industry – up to 35 percent in Guinea, for example.
Nonetheless, he said, the positive impact that bulk commodity projects, such as iron ore, will have on the regional and national rail, road, port and energy infrastructure continue to foster exploration for iron ore, bauxite, diamonds and gold in West Africa.
“In particular, there is increased focus in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire due to a favourable political climate and highly prospective grounds,” he said.
“Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer and continues to attract exploration although the political tension in the country is stifling progress.
Acheampong’s career has taken him into underground and opencast operations, where his skills developed in grade control, mining geology and mineral exploration.
As a Chartered Professional and Competent Person, he became well experienced in preparing and auditing mineral resources reports and business unit plans – setting strategic direction for mining operations and exploration license tenements.
His studies also took him to the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town, where he undertook a year-long management development programme tailored to the mining sector.
His return to Ghana from his last post in Johannesburg as Corporate Geology Manager has him looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities.
“Coming back to West Africa is very important for me,” he said. “I have strong connections and networks in the region, having worked here for more than 15 years, and am excited about serving the industry here in my new consulting role.
“The SRK practice in Ghana, while relatively new, is well positioned to attract jobs from exploration and mining companies all over West Africa as Ghana is like a hub of exploration and mining activity in the region.
“My place in the team will ensure that we have adequate capacity to deliver a wide range of geological consulting services.”
Billionaire Kumar Birla Champions Regional Supply Chains
As the head of the Aditya Birla Group, a US$46bn firm that operates in 36 countries, Kumar Mangalam Birla is no stranger to splashy strategic moves. Yet his recent announcement that he no longer wants to acquire globally distributed supply chains stood out. While many companies have struggled to cope with shipping backlogs, his firm has chosen to pivot and focus on regional networks. Said Birla: ‘We wouldn’t look at a company or a business where you source in one corner of the world and sell in another’.
He cited protectionism, the pandemic, and the limited movement of products and people around the world as ABG’s primary causes of lost profits. And they aren’t alone. Over the past year, 900 of the U.S. and Europe’s biggest IT, defence, and financial services firms have lost an average of US$184mn apiece.
An Era of Global Disruption
Over the past few decades, low shipping rates and rapid delivery times have lulled multinational firms into a false sense of security. In the early 2000s, companies chose to take on significant global supply chain risks in exchange for increased profits. First, it made sense to manufacture higher-value goods, such as electronics, in low-cost regions throughout Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. Second, first-tier suppliers started to outsource the manufacturing of specific components to second-, third-, and even fourth-tiers—leaving supply chains with extremely limited visibility.
So when COVID-19 disruptions struck certain regions, companies were caught unprepared. Usually, these events come few and far between. But over the past ten years, we’ve seen a number of ‘black swan’ events that have thrown the supply chain industry into chaos. Here’s a quick history of the most significant events in recent years, thanks to the MIT Sloan Management Review:
- 2010. China creates export quotas for rare earth elements.
- 2011. The Tōhoku Earthquake hits East Japan; flooding sweeps throughout Thailand.
- 2016-present. Trade wars between the U.S. and China hurt suppliers.
- 2020-present. COVID-19 pandemic shuts down international shipping ports.
Now, Kumar Birla is one of many who want to re-evaluate how we run our supply chains. Though his company has acquired 40+ companies in the last quarter decade, Birla intends to build up local hubs rather than expand operations.
Why Pursue Regionalisation?
Combine Chinese economic dominance, global supply chain vulnerabilities, and major government policy shifts around the world, and you have a storm brewing on the horizon for big multinational firms. As Brookings noted, ‘the biggest risk for trading opportunities in the developing world is growing protectionism in more advanced economies, often dressed up as national security protection’.
Altogether, from the U.S. to the European Union, governments are trying to protect their domestic supply chains, secure adequate stockpiles of materials, and build world-class local networks. Consider Biden’s recent executive order, which seeks to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to home soil, or Japan’s bid to open more memory chip fabrication factories near Tokyo. The Aditya Birla Group intends to react in kind. Said Birla: ‘We’re looking at regionalism as a very big theme’.
Will Others Follow Suit?
In the post-pandemic economy, global businesses must decide whether to expand or contract. On one hand, the Alibaba Group’s Cainiao Smart Logistics Network recently launched a direct flight between Hong Kong, China, and Lagos, Nigeria. On the other, the Japanese government is desperate to make its chip manufacturing domestic. Indeed, as two supply chain strategies diverge in a post-pandemic world, the one businesses take may make all the difference.
Yet Birla is confident that regionalisation is the right call. According to his words at the Qatar Economic Forum, even necessary cross-border transactions should be smaller in scope. And as the Bloomberg Billionaires Index now lists his net wealth at US$10.4bn, up 52% from 2020, he may have the cash to test his theories out. ‘Regional hubs, regional presence, regional employment, catering to regional demand’, he stated. ‘We’re a global company rooted in local economics’.