Earlier this month, multidisciplinary corporation Siemens held its first Belt & Road International Summit in Beijing, China, themed Create, Connect and Collaborate, during which it advocated for a digital ecosystem to foster future-orientated infrastructure development globally in what it referred to as the new digital silk road.
The summit was in line with China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to foster trade and exchange between Chinese engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors and global companies.
Delivering his keynote address at the summit, Siemens global president and CEO Joe Kaeser said the BRI presented a “new world trade order”, and urged more countries to be actively involved.
The current geopolitical constellation and the BRI were changing China’s role globally – strategically and economically – and this could be the case for more countries internationally, he said.
“At face value, the BRI is an invitation to the rest of the world to take part in the biggest infrastructure project of all time. It’s a landmark movement that represents a €1-trillion investment in infrastructure in about 90 countries and beyond – a project that has the potential to improve the lives of 70% of the world population. It’s a project that creates opportunities in practically every sector.”
With more than 1 000 industry leaders and delegates in attendance from more than 30 countries, the summit resulted in more than ten cooperation agreements being signed with Chinese enterprises on the day.
The agreements entailed companies from Nigeria, Mozambique and Indonesia, as well the Phillipines going into partnership with Chinese EPCs for projects relating to energy.
To drive the initiative to greater heights, Siemens has partnered with Chinese companies that form part of the BRI by providing them with innovative technology solutions that cater for the infrastructure, energy, oil and gas, and chemicals industries.
Meanwhile, during a press conference present at the summit, Kaeser highlighted the importance of the BRI in serving society.
Taking into cognisance the uneven development in most African countries, he emphasised the need for political stability to ensure that trade – through this initiative – promoted investment liberalisation and facilitation through opening countries to foreign investment.
Kaeser also reiterated the need for skills development in Africa to ensure participation of more African countries in the BRI. This is in line with a statement released by Siemens in November last year, when it handed over equipment – suitable for use in industrial automation and that allows for integrated engineering – to 13 engineering faculties at universities and colleges in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya. The is part of the company’s commitment to sustainable skills development across the continent. The value of the equipment is close to R5.5-million.
“In an African context, disruptive technology can be seen as an opportunity to leapfrog into the best and most advanced technologies, but this is possible only with access to the right training and equipment,” said Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO Sabine Dall’Omo in the statement.
In South Africa, Siemens made the donation to Northlink College, Boland College and Stellenbosch University, in the Western Cape; Port Elizabeth College and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, in the Eastern Cape; North-West University, in the North West; the University of Pretoria and Sol-Tech College, in Gauteng; and Mangosuthu University of Technology, in KwaZulu-Natal.