(Business in Cameroon) - Amine Homman Ludiye is the new CEO of Cameroon’s power utility, ENEO. The Moroccan was appointed on June 26, in Yaoundé during an extraordinary board meeting of the company. ENEO is controlled (51%) by Actis, the British investment fund.
ENEO’s new boss replaces Belgian Patrick Eeckelers who resigned on June 26 also. The latter quit after holding the helm for barely a year, but not without cause.
A troubled reign
When he took over the utility in April 2022, Patrick Eeckelers initiated a reorganization that focused on cost management. On June 7, 2022, he dissolved the inspectorate general, seen as costly, and placed the fight against fraud under the supervision of the deputy director of security. This led to tensions and power struggles within the organization.
On August 17, 2022, Eeckelers was even arrested and questioned for nearly two hours at the Judicial Police Headquarters in Yaoundé before being released. According to some of his co-workers, this was the Belgian’s most humiliating experience.
However, three months after the former CEO was released, on November 23, ENEO’s board had “encouraged (ed.note: him) to continue with the ongoing reorganization of the company to effectively address the challenges of our ambitious operational plan,” as stated in a note issued to the staff after a board meeting. Eeckelers’s organizational adjustments were approved. The general secretariat, where he believed part of the opposition against him was orchestrated, was dissolved, and the tariff and regularization units, strategy, internal control, and reporting were directly attached to him.
Still, all this was not enough to restore the Belgian’s trust who now feared for his safety, especially because those behind his arrest, which he considered arbitrary, were not held accountable. "This case knocked him down," said one of his colleagues. Right after quitting the company, Patrick Eeckelers left the country.
A new boss, a new fire
Amine Hommane Ludiye, the ENEO’s new CEO is described as a very ambitious executive. For many, the Moroccan’s appointment is not surprising, given that he was said to be eager to take over the firm at the apex of the Eeckelers crisis.
Ludiye joined ENEO in 2021 as Deputy CEO in charge of production. At the time, he was expecting to replace Eric Mansuy, who sat at the top chair before Patrick Eeckelers stepped in, in March 2022. After joining, the Moroccan became an Actis representative on the board, further boosting his hopes to one day lead the utility.
Amine Hommane Ludiye is set to officially take over today, June 29. One of the key missions laid out for him by ENEO’s board chairman, Séraphin Fouda, is restoring serenity within the company.
“He’s been asked to do everything possible to improve the social climate, particularly by focusing on regional balance and gender promotion," said a source who took part in the board meeting held on June 26. Similarly, as Secretary-General of the Prime Minister's Office, Fouda instructed the former CEO of Engie North Africa to examine the issue of the Common Initiative Group for Socioeconomic Promotion of Staff (Gic-P Eneo) and propose solutions to resolve the crisis
Since 2017, when the staff acquired a 5% stake in the company through Gic-P Eneo, no dividends have been distributed. Some individuals are becoming impatient and want to sell their shares, especially since the prospect of the government buying out Actis's shares does not reassure these minority shareholders.
According to Séraphin Fouda, calming the social climate is essential considering the challenges facing Eneo. For instance, the electricity provider must prepare to commercialize the first kilowatts of electricity from the Nachtigal hydroelectric plant by the end of this year to fulfill contractual obligations. This involves paying the Nachtigal Hydro Power Company (NHPC), the entity managing the production infrastructure, XAF10 billion per month for the purchased energy. "To achieve this, the PCA has called for an acceleration of the pole replacement program, network expansion to serve new customers, particularly industrial clients, and the acquisition of meters," detailed a participant in the board meeting.
To mobilize the necessary funds for these investments, Amine Hommane has been advised to prioritize multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank or the African Development Bank, which offer better borrowing conditions. However, his two predecessors have failed to convince the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s arm dedicated to the private sector, to provide the ENEO a financing of XAF210 billion for over three years. Internal sources point to the need for improved governance as well as better relations with the government and its entities, ENEO's primary client. Since May 2023, both parties have struggled to agree on the value of the State's debt to the utility. This is also one of the main issues that Amine Hommane Ludiye has to tackle. It should be noted that Actis expects him to enhance the company's attractiveness as it may sell the government its stake in the company.