Total Ethiopia Keeps Energizing

Abyssinia Business Network /ABN/

By Aklile Tsige

Total, a French multinational integrated oil   and gas company, was  founded in 1924 and one of the seven “Super major” oil companies in the world. Its businesses cover the entire oil and gas chain, from crude oil and natural gas exploration and production to power generation, transportation, refining, petroleum product marketing, and international crude oil and product trading. Total is also a large scale chemicals manufacturer.

Total has its head office in the Tour Total in La Défense district in Courbevoie, west of Paris. Operating in more than 130 countries worldwide, Total Group has been engaged in exploration, production and distribution of refined oil, petrochemicals fuel for aviation, lubricants and various energy products.

Ready to celebrate its 70-year-journey in Ethiopia, Total Group has decided to select Ethiopia to launch its new lubricants package in Africa as the first market. The launching event was held on Feb 20, 2020 at Hayat Regency Hotel. Aklile Tsige compiles the historical background of the Group while speaking to Thibault Lesueur, Total Ethiopia Managing Director on company’s operation in Ethiopia and a newly launched lubricants package.


The company was founded after World War I, when then French President Raymond Poincare rejected the idea of forming a partnership with Royal Dutch Shell in favor of creating an entirely French oil company. At Poincaré’s behest, Col. Ernest Mercier with the support of ninety banks and companies founded Total on 28 March 1924, as the Compagnie française des pétroles (CFP), literally the “French Petroleum Company”. Petroleum was seen as vital in the case of a new war with Germany.

The company during the 1930s was engaged in exploration and production, primarily from the Middle East. Its first refinery began operating in Normandy in 1933. After World War II, CFP engaged in oil exploration in Venezuela, Canada, and Africa while pursuing energy sources within France. Exploration in Algeria, then a French colony, began in 1946, with Algeria becoming a leading source of oil in the 1950s.

In 1954, CFP introduced its downstream product – Total brand of gasoline in the African continent and Europe. In 1980, Total Petroleum (North America) Ltd., a company controlled 50% by CFP, bought the American refining and marketing assets of Vickers Petroleum as part of a sell-off by Esmark of its energy holdings. This purchase gave Total refining capacity, transportation, and a network of 350 service stations in 20 states.

The company renamed itself Total CFP in 1985, to build on the popularity of its gasoline brand. Later in 1991, the name was changed to Total, when it became a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The French government, who used to control more than 30 percent of the company’s stock in 1991, reduced its stake in the firm to less than 1 percent by 1996. In the time period between 1990 and 1994, foreign ownership of the firm increased from 23 per cent to 44 per cent.

Meanwhile, Total continued to expand its retail presence in North America under several brand names. In 1989, Denver Colorado, based Total Petroleum, Total CFP’s North American unit, purchased 125 Road Runner retail locations from Texarkana Texas-based Truman Arnold Companies. By 1993, Total Petroleum was operating 2,600 retail stores under the Vickers, Apco, Road Runner, and Total brands. That year, the company began remodeling and rebranding all of its North American gasoline and convenience stores to use the Total name. Only four years later, Total sold its North American refining and retail operations to Ultramar Diamond Shamrock for $400 million in stock and $414 million in assumed debt.

After Total’s takeover of Petrofina of Belgium in 1999, it became known as TotalFina. Afterwards it also acquired Elf Aquitaine. First named TotalFinaElf after the merger in 2000, it was later renamed back to Total on 6 May 2003. During that rebranding, the current globe logo was unveiled.

In May 2006, Saudi Aramco and TOTAL signed a MOU to develop the Jubail Refinery and Petrochemical project in Saudi Arabia which targeted 400,000 barrels per day (bpd). On 21 September 2008, the two companies officially established a joint venture called SAUDI ARAMCO TOTAL Refining and Petrochemical Company (SATORP)- in which a 62.5% stake was held by Saudi Aramco and the balance 37.5% held by TOTAL.

In February 2015, Total unveiled plans to cut 180 jobs in the United Kingdom, reduce refinery capacity and slow spending on North Sea fields after it fell to a $5.7bn final-quarter loss. The company said it would also sell off $5bn worth of assets worldwide and cut exploration costs by 30%.

In June 2016, Total signed a $224M deal to buy Lampiris, the third largest Belgian supplier of gas and renewable energy to expand its gas and power distribution activities. In July 2016, Total agreed to buy French battery maker SAFT Group. in a $1.1bn deal, to boost its development in renewable energy and electricity businesses.

In August 2017, Total announced the acquisition of Maersk Oil for $7.45 billion in a share and debt transaction. This deal will position Total as the second operator in the North Sea.

In 2016 Total also created two new corporate divisions: namely People & Social Responsibility (Human Resources; Health, Safety & Environment; the Security Division; and a new Civil Society Engagement Division) and Strategy & Innovation (Strategy & Climate Division, responsible for ensuring that strategy incorporates the 2 °C global warming scenario, Public Affairs, Audit, Research & Development, the Chief Digital Officer and the Senior Vice President Technology).

As of 31 December 2014, Total S.A. had 903 subsidiaries consolidated into the group results, together with affiliate investments and joint ventures, mostly in LPG. In addition Total had other equity holdings amounting to about 3bn Euros, treated as investments and was involved in a number of significant joint ventures, mostly relating to LPG and LNG exploration, production and shipping.

Total Ethiopia

Total Ethiopia has been contributing a lot in the country’s energy supply for the past seven decades. As a petroleum product distribution company, it developed its activities by acquiring the Mobil Oil East Africa assets in 2006. Today the company operates with more than 160 service stations and five depots across the country, of which four are aviation depots, and a Fuels and LPG depot, the Dukem depot which has a total storage capacity of eight million liters.

According to Thibault Lesueur, Total Ethiopia Managing Director, Total Group has always been committed to supporting needs within the local area to make various communities a better place to live in addition to providing a broad range of expert technical services. The company actively assists numerous non-profit organizations that enhance communities and truly make a difference in people’s lives.

 “We are extremely proud of the company we’ve become today. It has been the dedication of our team members that has allowed Total Group to grow into a trusted provider for your home and your businesses.” Lesueur said.

The mission of the company is of multifaceted. He said, “We are always advancing to improve the way we work, enhance our services, and enrich the communities in which we live and work, we also recognize the importance of our employees, customers, suppliers and communities as our partners.”

“Now the Group is turning itself to a full energy player, taking into account the global climate change, and help its customers and stakeholders get the right answers for their needs.”

Moreover, the Managing Director stressed that the company pursues quality and safety in all that we do by optimizing our processes to provide the best services possible, and safety in all that they do. They maintain the highest standards to ensure our services are provided in a safe manner.

The Group has, indeed, engaged in multi-energy supply and activities such as oil and gas exploration, trading, transportation, refining, downstream activity which is the marketing of fuel, and petrochemicals that are used for making plastics. It also does the marketing of lubricants for all types of mechanical engines and other products.

Very recently the Group has engaged itself in supplying new energies. These are the ones that are environmentally-friendly and emit less or no carbon. These include solar panel which has now become very effective in supporting environmental protection efforts worldwide. Most importantly, Total Group has established facilities for its customers to recharge their electric cars in the company’s stations.

“ Now the Group is turning itself to a full energy player, taking into account the global climate change, and help its customers and stakeholders get the right answers for their needs.”, Lesueur said.

Some four years back the Group bought a battery producer called SAFT to keep going in the renewable energy supply. It has also made a joint venture business deal with PSA, a French-based car manufacturer to produce together batteries.

With regards to safety and standard, the Managing Director said, “The very key thing all of our employees share is safety. The second most important issue is professionalism. Whatever we do here at Total we do it to the standard. It‘s a business standard.”

In supporting environmental protection efforts, the company has decided to totally quit the use of plastic bags and cups as packaging materials, and to substitute them with a more environmentally-friendly ones.

As far as company’s strategy is concerned, the Managing Director indicated that the Group is not only a mono-energy supplier or an actor; it takes into account the footsteps of its activities to protect the environment, and people’s mobility. Furthermore the company is now becoming digital to be more competitive in the global market.

“There is no sufficient capacity of oil and gas transportation; there is no sufficient capacity of storage; there’s no sufficient capacity of sales and service-providing stations throughout the country. This has to be improved”

Total Ethiopia, in fact, is the first energy company which started to implement On Board Computer/OBC/ on fuel trucks and company owned vehicles. Explaining the use of this OBC, Lesueur said, “For each and every of our trucks that are involved in gas and oil transportation service, we have installed a device that is connected to the OBC as GPS, and provides information on the location, time and speed of the trucks to see if the trucks or the vehicles are being used properly or not.”

Total Ethiopia is famous for its contribution to community development and discharging its social responsibility across the country. It’s a responsible citizen company that is actively promoting road safety, fighting against malaria, ensuring product quality and developing renewable energies such as solar energy.

It also motivates young entrepreneurs through “Total Startupper of the Year” program with the objective to identify and reward the best innovative and sustainable projects developed by young Ethiopian entrepreneurs.

Over the past seventy years of service in Ethiopia, the Total Group has never stopped its operation even for a single day despite inconveniences and unfavorable business and socio-political landscapes. According to the Managing Director, as any company, Total here in Ethiopia has also faced challenges in its business operation, adding that slow down of the global and national economy, less fuel consumption and some monetary issues like shortage of foreign currency have been major bottlenecks.   

Lesueur said, “There is no sufficient capacity of oil and gas transportation; there is no sufficient capacity of storage; there’s no sufficient capacity of sales and service-providing stations throughout the country. This has to be improved”

The Director further stated that very recently the Ethiopian Government has shown interest in establishing a regulatory organ for the sector-Ethiopian Energy Authority, adding that this undoubtedly, address the challenges the sector is facing, and promote some standards such as the use of On Board Computer and adjustment on price margin.

On Feb 20, 2020 Total Group selected Ethiopia to launch its new lubricants package in the African continent as the first market. This new dynamic lubricant pack portrays performance at first sight; a rejuvenated, simpler and more compelling range for all Totalbranded automotive lubricants. Besides creating a premium and modernized design of our labels and cans, the new dynamic lubricant packs also aim to create an optimized, simpler and more compelling range for all Total-branded automotive lubricants.

The new label design is inspired by the dashboard of a car. This concept was validated by a major market study as innovative and customer-centric, helping the product stand out significantly from its competitors.

Total is reaffirming its commitment to a better energy as this new innovative & premium design incorporates anti-counterfeiting features and improved labels and utility. These changes will contribute to improve Total brand value and will impact all the affiliates of the Group.

According to Thibault Lesueur, Total Ethiopia Managing Director, The main features and benefits of the new dynamic lubricant packs are:

  • New side handle that makes the can handy and easier to carry.
  • New innovative & premium design that captures modernity and allows easier pouring.
  • Enhanced product recovery with a more performant can.
  • Strong brand impact & immediate product line visibility.
  • QR code that authenticates the product.
  • New educational pictograms that highlight products’ uses and benefits.
  • Enlarged viscosity grade
  • Product name with the background of the range’s color.
  • Product’s benefits logo.

The Managing Director noted that Total Ethiopia S.C is pleased and honored to be the first affiliate to introduce its new lubricant package to its esteemed customers.  As a major energy company, he continued, Total is honored to serve and support Ethiopia energy needs in its quest for development in the years to come. “Total Ethiopia will soon celebrate its seventy years’ of service in the country.” Thibault Lesueur indicated in his closing remark.

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