Commitment to Africa is not just about money



 

Louis Meiring

When companies invest in Africa by setting up production facilities here, they contribute far more than just finances, buildings and equipment; they offer their host countries a shortcut into the global mainstream, opening the doors to trade and development.

By far the most important aspects of foreign investment are the access to global operations, the transfer of technology, and the ongoing training and skills upliftment.

Companies can commit to Africa through ongoing financial investment in local manufacturing operations. International group, WEG recently initiated a programme to uplift the Zest WEG Group facilities – putting local manufacturing facilities onto an international platform.

The group will also use the WEG world network as a source for enquiries, to create business opportunities and bring much-needed international business to South Africa. This is all feasible through technology transfer if companies have the resources to skill and train its people. Once again, however, there is more to technology transfer than just training.

While technology transfer does include the upliftment of people’s ability to design or engineer products, it is also about the benefit of lessons learnt in the process of research and development (R&D) of these products. These lessons can have an immeasurable impact on local operations, due to the high levels of R&D already conducted. This technology is then transferred to the local operation without the company having to incur the cost or the time to develop it.

This process includes the vital aspect of how to produce the product using best practice methodologies, such as lean manufacturing, so special skills must be transferred and developed in South African industrial facilities.

Training should not only be aimed at staff, but at customers too. This is vital in addressing the skills void in various segments of the electric motor sector, created during the late nineties and early 2000s when the role of the artisan was not considered to be a career of choice.

As an African nation, we need to be able to access skills sets locally, so that we become less dependent on foreign nationals to provide critical skills. As a modern economy, we also need to maintain the costly capital equipment installed in many sectors of South African industry and the lack of these skills can play havoc.

Skilled and regular maintenance is important to extend the life cycle of any equipment. Industrial inefficiencies are, more often than not, the result of poor maintenance or no maintenance at all.

Part of the investment in skills is to educate those who operate and oversee equipment about the critical nature of proper maintenance. When this change in mindset occurs, we will know we are on the correct path to economic success.

The focus on skills is not only on the technical side of industry, but should also extend to management capacity. Sound managerial skills are needed to ensure that high levels of technical ability are implemented properly in the work process, and that productivity is maintained.

One of the most welcome benefits of economic investment is clearly the creation of jobs within the new manufacturing facilities created. It should be remembered, though, that jobs are also created indirectly.

This is the peripheral knock-on effect of investment, which is equally as important as the direct investment in the facility and the plant and equipment. To ensure that we harness the positive impact of indirect job creation, we also engage in supplier development activities to strengthen our downstream partners and provide access to the economy.

Contact Kirsten Larkan, Zest WEG Group, Tel 011 723-6221, kirstenl@zest.co.za

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Source: EE plublishers

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