From Mannofield to Maputo: An SME’s journey to Africa

THE invitation to present at the Chamber’s recent Scotland Africa Oil & Gas forum provoked a mixture of feelings: delight at being asked, tinged with a fleeting concern that the extensive experience of major players might do the subject more justice.

As it is, we were assured that Chamber members wanted to hear about the experience of smaller organisations too - such as Matrix Risk Control, who are now working within Africa. So how does a 15 - strong team headquartered in the granite city clinch a major contract 8,850 miles away?

Clear focus

Since its inception in 2009 Matrix has been firmly focused on internationalisation. Our mission is to help organisations to manage their operational risk through incident investigation training and specialist support services. Managing operational risk is a challenge that has no geographical boundaries and – after successful delivery of fledgling contracts in the UK continental shelf – we used our track record to proactively pursue work further afield.

Global ambition

As it was, our first overseas operation couldn’t have been much further away. From 2013 - 14, Matrix carried out a substantial safety training programme, involving almost 300 employees, on behalf of a leading natural gas explorer and producer in Australia. The project was one of the world’s largest gas pipeline laying projects – and the world’s first project to convert gas from coal seams into liquefied natural gas (LNG) located in the Southern Hemisphere. The experience we gained there would ultimately lead us into Africa.

Project parallels

The training programme that Matrix has recently completed on behalf of Anadarko in Mozambique has many parallels with our work in Australia. The project is another ambitious and prestigious one: Anadarko is the operator behind Mozambique LNG, a project to advance the country’s first large-scale onshore LNG Park on the Afungi peninsula in Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique. The Matrix team researched this part of the world and considered that both projects faced similar issues. By citing our experience in Australia, we were able to engage with Anadarko and propose a similar – yet tailored – work scope for the client.

Breaking and entering

As you might imagine, there are multiple challenges associated with working in an entirely new continent. The logistical checklist, incorporating items such as visas, travel, accommodation, training facilities and internal transfers, was considerable. We also had to deal with wider issues relating to language, culture and security in the area, not forgetting the crucial matters of vendor registration and establishing payment terms.

Parting thoughts

Smaller organisations should not be deterred from attempting to penetrate the African market. Do your research, identify which products or services might work well in the marketplace and pursue opportunities with confidence. Use expertise from the Chamber and other business support agencies for guidance on the detail of doing business in Africa. Oh – and be sure to attend the next Scotland Africa Oil & Gas Forum…