Interview: GSA Global Investments chairman, Issa Baluch
With the recent acquisition of Africa West under its belt, Dubai-based GSA Global Investments chairman, Issa Baluch, discusses why the UAE’s proximity to Africa offers some exciting opportunities.
What is the history of GSA Global Investments?
GSA Global Investments Limited is a relatively new investment vehicle created by our group to undertake investments in Africa West. It also tackles our expansion initiatives in India and China.
Why did GSA Global Investments see Africa West as an attractive acquisition?
Our move to invest in Africa West, with whom we have been working for many years, stems from our belief in Africa and in the opportunities the continent offers. We believe that Africa has great potential, having experienced rapid growth in recent years. Its collective economy is currently one of the fastest growing in the world. In fact, while most economies – including that of the US, the EU, and Latin America contracted amidst the crisis, only Africa’s and Asia’s economy managed to grow – with the exception of Japan. As a result, industries such as telecom, banking, retail and construction are flourishing.
What items make up the bulk of your cargo? Do you see Africa’s emerging economy shifting your emphasis?
Most of the imports we carry into Africa consist of consumer goods such as electronics, garments and textiles, spares, and pharmaceutical goods. Exports, on the other hand, are mostly organic and inorganic; fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers. We expect little change in this trend since African consumers’ demand for goods is on the rise and the market for African fruits, vegetables, and flowers remains strong as ever.
What was your decision behind adding Monrovia and Freetown to your destination list?
Political stability. Years of civil war and instability in Liberia and Sierra Leone has resulted in both these countries becoming more attractive to investors. This normalisation has become an opportunity for other countries to establish investments in Africa and capitalise on the huge resources for minerals, oil, and gas.
Without revealing specific information, can you give an idea as to what services and destinations are in the pipeline?
We are currently working on offering more destinations by the end of September, directly served by our fleet which is made up of MD11-F, AB6F, and DC9F. We will also reinforce our aircraft cargo capacity originating from Lome to facilitate faster deliveries within our network. For the present year, we will start to cover the long-haul import sectors originating from Chicago, Brussels, and Shanghai. We are also considering additional destinations within East Africa which we plan to launch by next year.
Will you be looking to upgrade any of the fleet to accommodate expansion plans?
Our current plans include the operation of a modernised, fuel-efficient, and reliable feeder fleet that will operate on a set schedule, with links to the airport cities in Africa. We will then work on extending the reach of this feeder fleet to other countries.
What influence do you see your appointment having on Africa West?
Having founded and chaired Swift Freight International – one of the leading global logistics companies in the region that focused on Africa, my professional experience illustrates an extensive coverage and exposure to the continent. Also as chairman of other African-centric companies, such as GSA Air Cargo Trader and Africa Atlantic Holdings, my focus has been and still is, providing business solutions to the African trading community. For more than 20 years I have devoted a considerable amount of time and effort in making sure Africa is well-covered, via air, sea or land and as the new chairman of Africa West, my knowledge and familiarity of the continent and its people will have a significant influence on the upcoming projects and activities of the group.
As a Middle East company, what advantage will your location have for Africa West?
The Middle East and the UAE in particular, is considered the gateway to the world’s emerging markets, including Africa. With its location and world-class logistics infrastructure, the UAE is a global logistics hub. Being based here in the UAE, we are in a very good position to leverage the country’s strength in terms of location and infrastructure. Thus, we will be able to add value to the business by staying competitive and providing our customers with even better service.