Despite the travails of the global economy and uncertainty in many countries, Africa will be the place to do business in the coming years. So says Raymond Obermeyer, managing director of SEW-Eurodrive South Africa, whose company has worked successfully around southern, central and east Africa for decades.
“Customers around Africa know our brand well, and respect the precision German engineering that underlies all our products,” adds Raymond. “They also rely on our strong service ethic, which is based on our culture of responsiveness and understanding customer needs.”
A key aspect of the company’s high levels of customer support derives from its infrastructure and capability as well as having a presence close to customers’ sites. Ready availability of stock, and quick turnaround times for designed solutions, are ensured by the company’s newly built and expanded facility in Aeroton, Johannesburg.
“These new headquarters – worth around R500 million in infrastructure and stock – were a carefully-considered investment in our future growth,” says Raymond. “It has also enabled a three-fold increase in our stockholding, which is vital to ensure that customers get what they need, when they need it.”
In addition to serving branches in Nelspruit, Durban, Cape Town and Gqeberha, this state-of-the-art facility supports over 23 more countries in Africa. It is this proven branch model that the company is now rolling out. Moving gradually away from the distributor model of product sales and support, four countries are strategically targeted each year for a branch establishment.
Four countries a year
“Taking a phased approach to our growth strategy, we began establishing branches in our key growth areas of Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya and Tanzania in 2022,” states Raymond. “In the years to come, we aim to target around four countries a year in which to put a branch in place.”
The model, he emphasises, has benefits not only to customers but also to the host countries. While the investment is greater, there is more control over factors like service quality and performance. By appointing and training its own staff, SEW-Eurodrive is ensuring that customers get a uniformly high standard of support, irrespective of their location.
“This strategy also aligns with the growing trend in Africa towards localisation. Countries are wanting to see more local benefit from economic growth, and a move away from relying on foreign companies and expatriate workers.”
Building on the experience of running its own strong branch network in South Africa, SEW-Eurodrive is excited about the prospect of building capacity around Africa. This includes more formal training and mentorship of local staff in African branches to service the continent’s already large population of their motors, gearboxes, geared motors and other equipment.
Underestimate the potential
“Our equipment is to be found in a wide range of industries around Africa, from food and beverage to cement, mining and pharmaceutical,” says Raymond. “Our hands-on approach to our work means that we understand operating conditions in each country, and so we have developed the expertise to deliver the way our customers require.”
He emphasises that casual observers tend to underestimate the recent growth, and potential, in most African countries. It is being driven by considerable investment in world class industrial facilities which demand high-tech equipment supported by qualified and experienced experts.