General Electric looking at Africa for future growth

US-based multinational General Electric Co (GE) is seeing Africa as a key driver for its future growth, says Lazarus Angbazo, president and CEO of GE for East, Central and West Africa.

“Africa is central to the overall global strategy that GE has in place,” he told delegates at a recent conference in South Africa.

GE is a diversified global business with products and services ranging from aircraft engines, power generation, water processing and security technology to medical imaging, financing, media content and industrial products.

The company currently has about 1,500 employees in Africa and generated about US$3.6 billion of revenue on the continent in 2010. “Overall we are a small company in Africa. We have less than 2% of global revenues for GE and we have less than 0.5% of the employees. So we have a very entrepreneurial mindset,” Angbazo noted.

Reuters this week reported that former GE Asset Management head Jay Ireland has been appointed to the new post of chief executive of GE Africa, a move in line with the company’s strategy to focus executives more closely on its fast-growing emerging markets operations.

During his presentation, Angbazo said that Africa’s poor infrastructure should not be viewed as a hindrance to investment, but rather as an opportunity. He added that the company is seeing potential in oil & gas, power, water treatment, transport and health care.

GE has adopted a partnership approach for its projects in Africa, as opposed to just selling equipment. This involves also taking on a degree of commercial risk. An example of this strategy is a $250 million project for the design, construction and management of a seawater desalination plant in Algeria. Completed in 2008, ownership of the projects is shared between GE and the government of Algeria.

Angbazo added that GE is committed to steer clear of any corrupt business practices in Africa. “The time has come that we have an emerging class of leadership that are insisting on ethical business models.”