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Jun 22, 2012

SA suitably positioned as gateway to rest of Africa

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Engineering|Expertise|Africa|Cable|Education|Industrial|Lapp Group Southern Africa|Lapp Southern Africa|Materials Handling|PROJECT|Projects|Renewable Energy|Renewable-Energy|Africa|Germany|Kenya|Nigeria|South Africa|Automotive|Beverage|Energy|Food|Manufacturing|Manufacturing Sectors|Materials Handling|Renewable Energy Sector|Deepak Gulati|Infrastructure|Mark Dilchert|Cable|Cables|Sub-Saharan Africa
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South Africa is increasingly becoming the preferred investment destination for Germany-based companies, as they look to expand their footprint into the rest of Africa, says cable specialist Lapp Group Southern Africa MD Mark Dilchert.

“The South African-based office is responsible for the supply of cables to various industries in Africa, including in Kenya, Nigeria and countries in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Establishing an office in South Africa makes sense. It is logistically sound, while its infrastructure and political climate are also adding to the decision to set up here,” he adds.

Lapp Southern Africa, which is a subsidiary of Germany-based cable manufacturer Lapp Group, has supplied cables to the food and beverage, automotive, automation and manufacturing sectors, besides others.

Dilchert highlights that the company is focusing on supplying the renewable energy sector. “The renewable energy sector is a major sector in which we would like to participate. We also have an extensive range of suitable cables for use on wind turbine to solar applications and everything in between.”

Meanwhile, he points out that a partnership between South Africa and Germany holds numerous benefits for the South African economy. “The partnership between the two countries is important on various levels, because much is shared between them.

“The Lapp Group is a multinational organisation and Lapp Southern Africa constantly promotes the upskilling of our staff by bringing in international experts to share international standards and expertise,” he says.

Further, Dilchert notes that good trade relations between the two countries stimulate the economy.

“Increased investment by German companies in South Africa is good for the economy and, more importantly, is key in dealing with one of the biggest problems facing South Africa – the high level of unemployment.”

He says South Africa’s economic growth will begin to increase on the back of the potential growth of African markets, stressing that South Africa’s role is vital to the success of neighbouring and landlocked countries that will seek to use the country’s infrastructure to import and export material, while simultaneously gaining expertise.

Company Performance
Tough trading conditions; economic turmoil, resulting in companies tightening their expenditure; and volatile global commodity prices have made previous financial years challenging, states Lapp Southern Africa sales and marketing head Deepak Gulati.

“Lapp Southern Africa’s sales figures over the past few years were not as robust as we would have liked them to be; however, the company performed well, considering the harsh economic climate in which we were trading.”

After extensive research, the company added customer satisfaction and interaction to its key aims. “It was important that we understand all the customers’ needs so that we are in a position to provide the right solution,” says Gulati.

He adds that Lapp Southern Africa has focused on restructuring internally and is targeting marketing that was not active previously.

The company expects these steps to increase business for Lapp Southern Africa and is optimistic that sales will reach desired levels.

Job Creation
“Companies need to assist government in dealing with what is arguably the most pressing economic issue on the table – the incredibly high level of unemployment,” Dilchert asserts.

“One of the biggest contributors to the high unemployment rate is the large number of people who are not skilled enough to be employed, which is why at Lapp Southern Africa, upskilling and training are key social responsibilities.”

The company, in partnership with pneumatic and electrical automation technology specialist Festo, as well as multinational electrical engineering company Siemens, host the yearly Cyber Junkyard for tertiary students.

It is an industrial intertertiary competition that takes place around October and is aimed at bringing industry and education closer together. Teams from various tertiary institutions battle it out to complete a project according to a specific brief.

“This year’s brief is a materials handling project for storage and racking. About ten universities will participate in the competition,” says Dilchert.

He notes that these initiatives by the private sector are key in creating jobs for students, by ensuring that people have the required skills for a specific sector.

“Last year’s project brief was renewable energy. Many students were trained and up-skilled through this competition and, consequently, many of them will be employed, as they have the necessary skills needed for upcoming renewable energy projects,” he explains.

He adds that Lapp runs an internship programme. “Every year, we sponsor the tertiary education of one student.”

Dilchert urges other companies to consider giving back to communities through similar social responsibility initiatives and programmes.

“Understandably, companies try to make as much profit as they can. However, if every company gave back to communities on a continued basis, it would add value and make the world a better place.”
 

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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