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Immediate boarding for Madagascar

5 min


After Iqaluit Airport in the Arctic North of Canada, Colas and Bouygues Construction are now modernising Antananarivo and Nosy Be airports. Synergies between the two Group businesses enabled them to successfully manage the logistics challenge.
By Thomas Vitry


Ten thirty at night. It is pitch black in and around Antananarivo, the cap- ital of Madagascar, the “Red Island”. Few vehicles venture out onto the unlit roads in this country where less than 10% of the population has electricity. However, activity is intense just a short distance away where close to 150 Colas Madagascar siteworkers are hard at work on the runway of Ivato Airport, the island’s largest. Four nights per week, between 8pm and 6am, the crews are rehabilitating the 3,100-metre-long main runway. The logistics of the operation are critical, explains Colas Madagascar project manager Alain Chauvet: “It’s a race against the clock, because the runway must be fully functional at 6 in the morning so the first planes of the day can use it. Which means we can’t make the slightest slip-up.” On the job, every man knows exactly where he must be at any time. While a milling machine removes the surface asphalt in the touchdown and braking zones, siteworkers place Colgrill R, an asphalt layer reinforced with a thermobonded glass-fibre mesh that extends the service lifetime of the surface course. A spreader then sprays a tack coat. A total of 70,000 tonnes of asphalt will be placed in just a few months. Compare this to the average of 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes Colas Madagascar produces every year!

Shortly before 6am, teams from Colas and Ravinala Airports, the project concession company 1 , inspect the runway to check it can safely be opened to air traffic. Meanwhile, other Colas workcrews arrive to carry out external works, to build a sewage treatment plant, etc. Working in the strictly controlled environment of an airport calls for drastic security measures. “Every person and item of equipment that enters the worksite must be searched,” explains Miadana Randriamihoajaka, safety, security and environment manager.

1. Ravinala Airports is made up of Groupe ADP (35%), Bouygues (20%, with equal shares for Bouygues Bâtiment International and Colas), and Meridiam (45%).

8:00 PM to 6:00 AM
4 times a week


In Madagascar, the social impact of companies is very strong. Colas Madagascar set up a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy many years ago: “For example, we opened a medical centre at our headquarters,” explains Philippe Giordanella, head of communication, security and general services at Colas Madagascar. “We recruited medical staff who provide free care for all our employees and their families.”

Nothing of that has been lost on special-purpose company CMBI, made up of Colas Madagascar, Colas Projects and Bouygues Bâtiment International: “We audited the healthcare system, recruited an emergency-care nurse on the worksite, and secured the means of evacuating anyone who might be seriously injured to Reunion Island,” says CMBI manager Philippe Gesret. “We have also convinced all our partners to join us in setting up a care centre for underprivileged children, a project supported by Terre Plurielle, Bouygues Construction’s corporate foundation, which is particularly important to me.”


Another special feature: the work done hand in hand with Colas by Bouygues Construction, for whom it is the first project on the Red Island. Special purpose company CMBI was created for the project as an equal-share partnership between Bouygues Bâtiment International, Colas Madagascar and Colas Projects. Synergies between the members swung the decision when it came to awarding the contract, according to Thibaut Servant, deputy project director for CMBI and projects director for Colas Projects: “Every year, thanks to its network of branches located close to customers, Colas works on 80,000 construction and infrastructure maintenance worksites of all sizes around the world. But large projects and ‘small’ jobsites cannot be managed the same way. We therefore banked on synergies between the local knowledge and logistics support of Colas Madagascar and the experience of Bouygues Bâtiment International on large projects.”

It is Colas Projects, an entity founded in 2017 to make complex bids and assist the company’s subsidiaries on large projects, that provided the interface with Bouygues Construction. Successfully. “We brought the best of two worlds together,” confirms Philippe Gesret, CMBI manager and project director. “Joining forces with Colas Madagascar was the obvious thing to do, for they’ve been working in the country for a long time. As for Bouygues Bâtiment International, we relied on our experience with airports like those of Zagreb, Cyprus, and Iqaluit, in the Arctic North of Canada.”

With Colas and Bouygues Bâtiment International, we have brought the best of two worlds together on this project.
Philippe Gesret
CMBI manager and project director
Objective 1 million
Passengers per year

These were fundamental advantages in a country where projects of this magnitude are few and far between. “It’s a design-and-build contract, so we’re very much at ease, being involved from A to Z,” comments Clément Larher, works manager for Colas Madagascar. “But that implies the strictest discipline and having an experienced, trained workforce.”

Human resources is also of the essence. “Our local employees show a lot of potential, and we put a lot into training them. With this transfer of skills we were able to recruit a 95% Malagasy workforce,” says Philippe Gesret.

As the end of the rainy season ap- proaches, the weather starts to change suddenly and the temperature does not rise above 25°C; ideal conditions for making good progress with the structural steelwork of the new airport terminal. “The new terminal covers an area of 17,500 m2 and will meet international standards,” says CMBI production manager Bastien Sauvet. “This means Ravinala Airports will be able to aim for one million passengers per year and to improve their airport experience.” At peak times as many as 400 employees were working on the building that will meet the criteria of the Edge green building certification system.

Work on the runway, which accounts for close to 35% of the works in total, will be completed for the summer of 2018. Colas Madagascar crews will then deconstruct an adjacent military zone and convert it into a visitor carpark. At the same time, Bouygues Bâtiment International siteworkers will complete the new terminal in time for final handover in the summer of 2019. An Air Mauritius Airbus A-330 taxis out to the runway, preparing to take off with the President of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, on board. "This project is exhilarating," says Clément Larher, eyeing the plane from the tarmac. “I hope it will be a springboard for all our Malagasy employees and a showcase for the Group as a whole.”


In addition to Ivato Airport, CMBI is in charge of works at Fascene Airport in Nosy Be, an island slightly north of Madagascar. The contract calls for rehabilitation of the 2,000-m2 terminal by Bouygues Bâtiment International, upgrading of the runway and taxiways – 20,000 tonnes of asphalt to be laid – and ancillary works to be carried out by Colas Madagascar, all without disturbing flight schedules.

The project is smaller but more complex in terms of logistics. “Nosy Be is an island off an island,” explains Project Director Alain Chauvet. “We had nothing whatsoever on location, so we had to seafreight all our plant and construction materials to the port of Toamasina, then carry it by road and finally by barge.”

Colas Madagascar is an institution
Richard Ferrazi CEO of Colas Madagascar since September 2017
Interview of Richard Ferrazi
What makes the Antananarivo and Nosy Be airports project so important for Colas Madagascar?

For several reasons: it’s a big contract – €142 million, with €68 million for Colas – and it’s complex, being design, build and operate. So it’s a big project for Madagascar. And then, Colas Madagascar, which has been working here for over 60 years, is an institution. It gives us an opportunity to show that we can carry out complex projects and that contractors and investors can work here under good conditions.

How is Colas positioned in the country?

Infrastructure requirements in Madagascar are colossal. We have identified several large projects that would be of interest to us, on condition that they are part of coherent overall government policy. Political stability is an issue here. Without it, funding agencies will be reluctant to be involved, despite the fact that the country has immense resources and potential.

Right now we have about 2,200 employees here. We work as a local branch, so we have to be intransigent about respect, ethics and good conduct.

With the new terminal, concession company Ravinala Airports is aiming to see one million passengers pass through Ivato every year
Robinson Rakotomalala, chief blaster at Colas Madagascar’s PK 13 quarry.