Engine Oil Demand Seen Rising in Africa

As large as it is, Africa has long been overlooked by lubricant suppliers looking for fertile markets. But analysts and industry insiders contend that a variety of factors suggest that engine oil demand in many parts of the continent will grow for the foreseeable future.

A recent study by Hexa Research forecasts that engine oil demand in Africa will reach around 871 million liters by 2024, fueled by rising automobile sales, greater consumer spending and increased expenditures on transportation and infrastructure, among other factors.

The firm, which is based Felton, California, cited several countries, including Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Morocco as likely to experience rapid growth in auto sales, and concluded that this should spur engine oil demand. It added that government investment in infrastructure projects will give motorists more opportunities to drive those vehicles.

Rami Al-Kinanny, general manager for Hitech Oils and Grease in Egypt, cited several mega-projects under construction in fast-growing countries, including one in his homeland, intended to create a new center of Cairo. The new capital city is a humongous project gulping more than $20 billion, he said. The 700 square kilometer city is situated in the desert east of Cairo. When completed, it would become the new seat of government in Egypt.

So, yes, due to current expansion – and expecting more in the future – the demand for engine oils and all other types of oil really will rise.

Emmanuel Ekpenyong, lubricant manager for HOGL Ltd., in Lagos, Nigeria, agreed that infrastructure projects will boost consumption of engine oil across Africa. This is due to the deliberate emphasis by governments on the expansion of infrastructure – roads, rail, office and residential buildings, increased production, among other things, Ekpenyong added. The level of investment will keep growing steadily, he said, from Lagos in Nigeria to Banjul in Gambia, from Cairo in Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa, and from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Luanda, Angola.

Rami Al-Kinanny, general manager for Hitech Oils and Grease in Egypt, cited several mega-projects under construction in fast-growing countries, including one in his homeland, intended to create a new center of Cairo. The new capital city is a humongous project gulping more than $20 billion, he said. The 700 square kilometer city is situated in the desert east of Cairo. When completed, it would become the new seat of government in Egypt.

So, yes, due to current expansion – and expecting more in the future – the demand for engine oils and all other types of oil really will rise.

Patrick Swan, of Aswan Consulting in South Africa, predicted the growth in engine oil demand will be gradual. There will be a slow increase, but I dont think it would be big, it wont be sudden, Swan told Lube Report by phone in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Hexa Research said the quality of engine oils is also rising, due to availability of higher performance raw materials, such as API Group II and III base stocks.

Traffic in Lagos

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Swan agreed that availability of Group II and Group III base stocks is on the rise. He emphasized that most of them come from South Korea and some from the United States. However, Ekpenyong noted that in West Africa, Group II and III base stocks are available only to a limited extent.

The bulk of base stocks that are fed into West African markets are mainly Group I, he said. This is because price is a key consideration and competition is fierce, making Group I materials the buyers choice to a large extent.

Hexa Research and market sources agreed that independent workshops are the preferred and leading sales channel for passenger vehicles in Africa. Ekpenyong said this is especially true for mid-tier to premium engine oils in Africa. This is because of standards set by the vehicle manufacturers. The independent workshops prefer known brands that believe in quality as their supplier of choice for engine oils [because they] comply with most OEM specifications, he said. For low-end oils, the retail and auto spare parts shops are the preferred market channel, he added.

There are independent workshops everywhere, Al-Kinnany noted. Either multinational companies invest in locations across the continent to ensure supply to all remote areas reaching customers, or they choose to rely on workshops to do the distribution for them. Big multinationals do invest in the supply chain but not enough in outlets.