The arrest of French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, head of one of the largest companies operating in Africa, Bolloré Logistics, is unlikely to hurt the operations of the company recently valued at EUR12.9bn ($15.4bn). Insufficient logistical infrastructure has long held back economic growth for many countries situated on the world’s poorest continent. The French company has been important to developing critical infrastructure that has been driving growth of late. Odds are investigations in France will not significantly damage the company in Africa. Vincent Bolloré has already gained vocal support from Guinean President Alpha Condé, who announced he would file a complaint in Paris over what he described as ‘slanderous denunciation’ by the French authorities.
Bolloré ranks among the most important foreign companies currently working on the African continent. According to Stanislas de Saint Louvent, deputy chief executive officer of Bolloré Ports, the company has invested EUR3bn ($3.6bn) into Africa over the past decade, making it a major investor. Even though Vincent Bolloré retorted that he now questions if his company should be doing business in Africa at all, there is no real prospect of any retreat from the continent occurring. Cancelling and finding alternative companies to do the required work constitutes a highly unattractive proposition for governments across Africa. With long-established relations with many governments across the region, the value of Bolloré is hard to overstate.
The most significant impact of the decision by the French authorities to in effect charge Vincent Bolloré is the very public statement that the French government strongly suggested it will no longer ignore corruption taking place overseas for the purposes of protecting the business interests of the most powerful in commerce. Other big firms registered in France should take notice – which is exactly what President Macron would like to happen. For the Bolloré Group as a whole, recent events should initiate a period of examination of company practices regardless of the outcome resulting from the investigations against Vincent Bolloré.