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GE in Africa The start of something big

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Tim Schweikert, President & CEO – GE Southern Africa play

Tim Schweikert, President & CEO – GE Southern Africa

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Cheryl Anderson, Mission Director of USAID for Southern Africa added, “I think we will look back on this and remember and think that this was an important moment in the start of something big.”

This year, South Africa is proudly celebrating 20 years of democracy, remembering when Nelson Mandela was elected president and the apartheid system was put to an end. Since 1994, leaders in the country have focused on building a democratic, inclusive society that encourages participation and civic activity amongst the country’s diverse demographics. One of the most significant by-products of this effort has been the reinvesting of global companies that left South Africa during apartheid into the country’s workforce, supply chain and national economy. As such, South Africa is now looking to the next 20 years to focus on building a sustainable, resilient economy.

Last month, Tim Schweikert, President & CEO – GE Southern Africa announced the company’s investment of R700 million designed to support innovation as well as enterprise and skills development in South Africa. The announcement was made at a special event that included GE Africa executives, the new South African Minister for Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, Mission Director of USAID for Southern Africa, Cheryl Anderson and other local leaders.

As Tim Schweikert began to talk about GE’s investment and commitment to South Africa’s economy, it was clear that he was making a statement more than an announcement. “While the last 20 years has seen substantial gains being made in building a democracy, the next 20 years need to be more focused on economic transformation.”

Of the total amount, R500m will be allocated to the creation of a research and development facility that will become GE’s local centre of excellence for innovation and technology transfer. The Customer Innovation Centre (CIC), will recruit up to 100 technical employees, who will work on localising GE technologies and solutions for application in South Africa and the rest of the continent. The engineers will also team up with local universities and engineers from organisations, such as Transnet Engineering, to develop South African-inspired solutions from GE’s existing energy, healthcare, lighting and rail transportation product portfolios.

A further R200m will be invested in supplier development aimed at supporting and enabling an environment for small and medium enterprises to thrive and be active participants in growing the economy. The fund will aim to bring black SMEs into the global supply chain, supporting them in various forms, including a financing mechanism and/or mentoring in key business areas, such as leadership development, coaching and compliance.

Speaking on the importance of nurturing entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa, Lindiwe Zulu, South Africa’s Small Business Development Minister, said “We need partnerships. The spirit must not be something people get into because they have nothing else to do. You need to have it within you and be in the right environment. It’s time for us collectively to get South Africa working from an economic perspective. People want to put bread on the table.

Cheryl Anderson, Mission Director of USAID for Southern Africa added, “I think we will look back on this and remember and think that this was an important moment in the start of something big.”

For more info on General Electric's endeavors in Africa visit:- http://www.gereportsafrica.com

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