Ibrahim Issaoui founded Socimex Group in 1998 because he saw the unlimited business potential of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But over the following years, Issaoui, a native of Lebanon, came to think of the DRC as his second home. Now, Issaoui’s love for his adopted homeland motivates his expansion of the Group to help improve the daily lives of Congolese.
“With a surface area equivalent to Western Europe, the DRC is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Issaoui said. “The country has immense potential as it is endowed with exceptional natural resources, hydropower potential and immense arable land.”
Issaoui started with one company, Socimex, which became the namesake of the Group. Socimex is an import-export trading company that was launched with the goal of providing Congolese with food staples, including rice, iodized salt, preserved and frozen goods, as well as others. Since its founding, Socimex has expanded to multiple outlets around the country.
With the success of Socimex, Issaoui saw the opportunity to provide a range of goods and services for Congolese.
The Group’s Safrimex construction and engineering company, founded in 2001, builds highways, commercial and residential buildings, among its other projects, expanding the country’s infrastructure. But the company’s mission to the DRC goes beyond construction projects, according to Safrimex’s core principles. “We don’t lay roads; we connect cities. We don’t build bridges; we connect communities. We don’t fix hospitals; we help improve the quality of life.”
Development is at the heart of Socimex Group’s growth, Issaoui said.
“For the past two decades, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced impressive and sustained economic growth and development,” he said. “Child mortality has dropped in most countries, and fertility rates have significantly lowered for educated women living in urban areas; smaller families lead to more resources for children and healthier outcomes, aiding development.”
The Group’s Congo Oil business plays a key role in Congolese nutrition. Congo Oil seeks to transform the country’s traditional production of vegetable palm oil into modern, industrial production. As its ultimate goal, Congo Oil seeks self-sufficiency in products derived from vegetable palm oil in the DRC.
Three of the Group’s businesses work together to support the DRC’s growth.
Socitrans, the logistics business of the Group, founded in 2004, provides long-chassis service between the port city of Matadi, the City Province of Kinshasa and Bandundu. Socitrans boasts a capacity that has enabled it to participate in solving the logistics riddle of a country the size of the DRC.
Sonades, the Group’s electricity and green energy company, was created to help contribute to the electrification of the country. Established in 2005, Sonades is not only committed to powering the country, but to democratizing the use of renewable energy, making certain that all Congolese can participate in the Green Energy revolution.
Central Motors, founded in 2007, is a top distributor of Hyundai, Mazda, Ashok Leyland and New Holland brands to Congolese consumers.
“According to the World Bank, the population in Africa is rapidly expanding, and the continent will hold an estimated 2.8 billion people by 2060, half of whom will be under 25 years old by then,” Issaoui said. “I believe, with the right policies and actions, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa — and more specifically, the DRC, one of the biggest Sub-Saharan powerhouses — will reap a tremendous demographic dividend from this growth.”
With this demographics boom comes great responsibilities, Issaoui said.
He emphasized the importance of “reforming the Congolese educational system to include training of many more skilled workers and technicians; and, finally, focusing on a progressive agricultural policy with the objective of food self-sufficiency by 2025,” he said in a 2021 interview with L’Essential Magazine.
What’s next for Group Socimex? In the L’Essential interview, Issaoui said the Group is exploring opportunities in agriculture, livestock and the development of lake and river transportation.
“The economic and social development of our country, the DRC, requires the combination of several integrated initiatives and projects, including developing road and energy infrastructure in order to connect the centers of production with the centers of consumption,” Issaoui told the magazine.