These needs are the areas that General Electric (GE) has identified as its focus in its charge to expand its market in Africa, GE Africa corporate regional executive Yibrah Tesfazghi reports.
“With the range of services that GE provides, it can meet Afri-can infrastructure development needs, and aims to grow itself in being part of rebuilding Africa,” Tesfazghi says.
With offices in Cairo, Egypt, and in Johannesburg, Tesfazghi is responsible for working on behalf of all the company’s businesses to expand customer and government relationships, and to develop new business opportunities for the company across Africa.
Tesfazghi, who is a native of Eritrea, East Africa, was appointed into his position in May this year.
“Nepad is an initiative we would like to work with in the African continent, and we are in the process of exploring all possible avenues to start and strengthen our relationship with the organisation. “We strongly believe in Nepad because it is a home-grown African economic initiative and has a good understanding of the needs of Africa,” he says. The company has been present in Africa for more than a hundred years.
Following its establishment in 1878 by Thomas Edison, the company established its first foreign office in what is now South Africa in 1898, after being represented by an agent since 1894.
GE’s businesses include manufacturing of aircraft engines, provision of commercial and consumer finance, consumer products, equipment management, industrial systems, insurance, medical systems, plastics, power systems, as well as speciality materials and transport systems.
“Transportation Systems, a global supplier to the railroad, transit and mining industries, is one of our company’s business units that will make a significant contribution to Nepad’s success,” Tesfazghi says.
There are about 2 000 GE locomotives in Africa on the whole.
The company has embarked on a locomotive refurbishment programme, using the latest microprocessor technology, known as the Brightstar system. At present the company is applying this modernisation programme in Benin, Cameroon and Mozambique. Brightstar modernisation results in increased reliability, haulage capability and availability, while reducing maintenance, fuel consumption and emission levels. It increases asset utilisation, as the locomotives are refurbished without being removed from their place of work.
The programme results in extending locomotives’ lifetime by about 20 years. The Brightstar upgrade effectively allows customers to install modern technology at less than half the price of new production locomotives, Tesfazghi explains.
“This programme fits well with Nepad’s initiative to improve transportation in the continent,” Tesfazghi notes.
The company is also focusing in improving its medical activities in Africa.
Tesfazghi says, in South Africa, the company already supplies sophisticated high-tech medical equipment to a number of medical institutions in different areas of the country.
In line with GE’s philosophy of ploughing back in to the societies it operates in, the company’s employees are involved in voluntary work, and have adopted a school called Bonwelong Primary, in Ivory Park, Midrand, where the company’s employees provide a feeding scheme and remedial classroom facilities, as well as computer training to the teachers. GE South Africa also boasts the GE SA Educational Trust, which has promised to supply one teacher to the school for a full one-year service, to teach computer literacy, in particular to the school’s teachers and parents, as well as to the pupils.
“This is to ensure that our volunteer programmes are sustainable and in line with Nepad’s focus on information technology,” Tesfazghi says.
He also adds that his company believes in localisation, citing that GE Transportation Systems in South Africa has entered into a contract with Johannesburg-based Scaw Metals for export-ation of frames for locomotives to the US.