Seydou DIARRA, Head of SACO: From diplomat to industrialist
Development is everybody's problem and economic policies, however perfect, mean nothing until they are put into practice and there are results to judge them by.
In the Ivorian battle to reshape the economy, there are few lines to draw now between the administrators and the operatives-an example embodied, possibly unintentionally, by Seydou Diarra, Côte d'Ivoire's former Ambassador to Brussels, London and Rio de Janeiro, whom many in the Commission and, of course, the ACP Group have had the. opportunity to know and appreciate.
Seydou Diarra went home in 1985, keen to leave the diplomatic corps and move into industry, to 'get some actual hands-on experience of development'. It was his desire to get to grips with fundamentals and improve effectiveness which prompted this agricultural engineer and chemist to spend five months on the shop floor, on the chocolate production lines in Melun (Paris), before he took over SACO, the African Cocoa Company, in the Chocolatiers Barry group.
When The Courier met Seydou Diarra, now Managing Director of Côte d'Ivoire's major cocoa-processing industry, at SACO headquarters, he grabbed an overall and ushered us off round the plant to explain the various stages in the chocolate-making process.
The first task he set himself was to reorganise and modernise. This has been done.
The output of all three units has gone up and SACO is now handling 85 000 t of liquor equivalent, 45 000 t of it in the Abidjan Zone 4 plant.
SACO turns out semi-finished products (butter and oilcake), which are exported to the USA, one or two States in the CIS and, of course, Europe (where the Netherlands, France, Italy and Switzerland are the main customers). It also makes finished products, such as choco late (800 t p.a.), much of which goes to other countries in Africa and to Europe and the USA, as well as groundnut paste, which is consumed locally.
The 670-strong staff includes 37 senior employees (technicians and engineers), five of whom are European. The company has a turnover of nearly CFAF 40 billion.
The managing director's conviction that he has taken the right turning is very strong. His chosen career is a difficult one, no doubt, but it enables him to fulfil himself in a different way from before.
As Seydou Diarra puts it, 'the challenge of business is highly stimulating'..,
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