Saint-Gobain serving growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Upskilling programs for building professionals
  • Build sustainable cities
  • Water transportation in Africa
A rapid growth
Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced rapid population and economic growth in the past 10 years. Saint-Gobain is contributing to its development by providing a tailored range of services and construction materials, in particular through local partnerships.

Did you know ?

Saint-Gobain has been operating in sub-Saharan Africa since 1929 and today has more than 1000 employees in 10 countries.

A patchwork of cultures with disparate needs, Sub-Saharan Africa refers to the entire continent south of the Sahara: 49 countries, almost one billion people and annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth of 5.5 percent over the past 10 years.

The urbanisation rate, around 30 percent in 1950, is expected to reach approximately 70 percent by 2050. While the situation varies greatly between countries (10 percent in Rwanda and Burundi, and 80 percent in Gabon), this process is gaining increased traction given the population explosion. An important factor in reducing poverty, urbanisation leads to the emergence of a middle class responsive to international brands and for which Saint-Gobain’s solutions can present an interest.

South Africa, the springboard?

In 2005, Saint-Gobain acquired British Plaster Board, which provided the Company with gypsum plants in South Africa (the oldest of which dates from 1929) and in Zimbabwe, together with a warehouse in Mozambique. This purchase lent greater weight to Saint-Gobain’s industrial presence that had already started several years earlier with Abrasives through the acquisition of Abrasives Corporation (1997, South Africa) and with Pipe through the acquisition of Besaans du Plessis (1998, South Africa). In 2006, the Company added the Mortars business to its portfolio with the purchase of Tylon, and then in 2007, Insulation business with the purchase of Owens Corning (South Africa). The construction of a float glass production line in 2007 in Ain El Sokhna (Egypt) meant all Saint-Gobain businesses (excluding distribution) are now represented on the African continent.

Saint-Gobain Delegation for Sub-Saharan Africa office,
Johannesburg (South Africa)

In 2015, Saint-Gobain started forming industrial partnerships with local enterprises. Two joint ventures were signed in July: one for additives in Ghana, and the other for plasterboard in Tanzania. The Company provides its partners with its manufacturing expertise while the latter contribute their knowledge of the local market.

Along with these industrial developments, Saint-Gobain also has a sales presence in 12 Sub-Saharan countries, including four offices in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Ivory Coast.

The central team is based in Johannesburg (South Africa), headquarters of the Saint-Gobain Delegation for Sub-Saharan Africa. This team is now responsible for developing and coordinating the Company’s businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. It facilitates access to the neighbouring countries – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe – and plays a crucial role in sharing experience.

The local teams have extensive knowledge of the markets, their unique differences and the reality on the ground (specific construction methods, climatic and cultural requirements, product supply circuits, etc.). They provide a deeper understanding of current and future needs in order to develop solutions tailored to the requirements of distributors, local specifiers and end users.

Saint-Gobain, stakeholder in the local development

While Saint-Gobain currently exports to 43 of the 48 Sub-Saharan countries, it also aims to contribute actively to the local economic fabric through its industrial partnerships, the creation of local jobs, the provision of ad hoc training and the Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation’s solidarity actions.?

Supplier of solutions for improved living comfort?

As a leader for sustainable habitat, Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes construction materials tailored to local needs. In addition to providing users with improved comfort, these materials are easy to use (e.g., dry construction solutions that require no water at the building site) and contribute to protecting the environment.

The Company’s brands (Isover, Placo, Gyproc, Saint-Gobain Glass, Weber, Ecophon, etc.) provide a very broad range of solutions for the construction and renovation of all types of buildings (schools, hotels, hospitals, houses, etc.). From the foundations to the roof, Saint-Gobain covers all the stage of a building’s construction.?


Saint-Gobain’s solutions aim to improve thermal, acoustic and visual comfort, as well as indoor air quality and personal safety.

Energy used in buildings in Africa is estimated at 56% of the total national electricity consumption (40% in Europe) and big cities consume more that 75% of all electricity generated. To minimize energy consumption by reducing the need for air conditioning in summer and heating in winter, Saint-Gobain ensures thermal comfort with its roof, wall and floor insulation solutions.

Saint-Gobain solutions improve acoustic comfort by reducing interior and exterior noise (e.g., sound absorbing ceilings and wall systems, and acoustic ceiling tiles...).

Saint-Gobain also provides solutions designed to take better account of well-being and interior air quality (e.g., Placo’s Activ’Air? technology that captures up to 80 percent of aldehydes (mainly formaldehyde) present in ambient air, etc.).

Visual comfort contributes to a building’s aesthetic appearance and natural light harvesting through the use of a broad range of glazing materials. Finally, Saint-Gobain assures personal safety by providing a variety of attack-resistant films and security glass that can help protect people and property from the danger of fire.


In Sub-Saharan Africa, Saint-Gobain plays an important role in the development of cities and their infrastructure.

30 kilometers of pipe used to provide drinking water
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

With its ductile iron pipes manufactured by Saint-Gobain PAM, the Company helps deliver drinking water to African cities. For example, 85 kilometers of Saint-Gobain PAM pipe transports water from the Senegal River to Nouakchott (Mauritania). A further 30 kilometers of pipe supplied by the Company is used to provide drinking water in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While the road network is tending to improve across the continent, only one in three Africans in rural areas can access viable roads in all seasons. GlasGrid?, a solution provided by Saint-Gobain Adfors, is used to reinforce road surfaces and delay reflection cracking due to traffic, bitumen ageing and temperature variations. This solution triples the life span of road pavements. For example, it has been used on the road between Mombasa and Nairobi in Kenya.

Supplier of services?

As a responsible business, Saint-Gobain supports upskilling programmes for building professionals in Africa by sharing its technical expertise in ad hoc training courses.

About 424 people were trained in 2015 in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, Uganda and Ethiopia, as well as directly at the premises of certain distributors.

In parallel, 859 ceiling and drywall installers have been trained through the Saint-Gobain Academy in South Africa. In 2015, 47% of learners who graduate from the Academy have found employment afterwards.

Showroom in Gaborone (Botswana)

Saint-Gobain has eight showrooms in Tanzania, Namibia, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Botswana.

These provide customers with an opportunity to learn more about the Company’s solutions using educational models, to share expertise with dedicated consultants and to explore the Saint-Gobain energy efficiency and comfort experience. Various thematic workshops provide a practical answer to customers’ needs and assist in improving their skills.

Solidarity at the local level?

Through the Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation, the Company funds works or provides technical expertise for projects nominated and sponsored by current employees and retirees.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, two projects for school renovations have been supported by the Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation: Kinbu School in Accra (Ghana) and Nagum School in Naivasha (Kenya).

Kinbu Primary School (Ghana)

Kinbu Primary School (Ghana):?Built in 1997 with UNICEF aid and then renovated with the support of the Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation, this school was inaugurated in October 2015. The Foundation funded the restoration of the playground that was initially made of laterite (red brick).

Nagum Primary School (Kenya):?This school was identified in 2014 by a Saint-Gobain employee and the Foundation contributed to the complete refurbishment of four classrooms to replace former timber buildings. Working alongside project leader France Kenya Sport Solidarité, the parties involved local economic, social and political stakeholders. Local companies were consulted to perform the work under strict budgetary conditions. The Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation funded the foundations and walls of the four classrooms in which 370 pupils take turns for their lessons.?

The Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation also supports the architect profession through its Architecture for Social Gain Awards competition, introduced in 2015 in South Africa. It aims to honour architecture and infrastructure?that supports social gain in our society. The competition has three categories: Future (concepts and project proposals), Built (existing projects) and Adopt-A-School (school construction projects). Certificates were presented to the 12 professional and student winners in the three categories.

Stakeholder in sustainable development?

Saint-Gobain has been involved in sustainable habitat locally for several years as a member of the Green Building Councils (GBC). These national associations of habitat professionals and market stakeholders provide an important forum for promoting sustainable construction.

Saint-Gobain is a founding member of the Green Building Council of South Africa. It is also engaged on specific projects and conferences with institutes and associations of architects in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. These organisations are an opportunity to familiarise local architects with the latest construction techniques and to promote the Company’s portfolio of solutions for sustainable and comfortable habitat.