Exclusive interview with Mr Jay Ireland, GE President and CEO for Africa – GE is the diamond sponsor for EAPIC.
1) Why is GE excited about doing business in East Africa/Kenya?
The East Africa region is experiencing steady economic growth thereby increasing the need for an improved infrastructure and access to world class technological solutions.
These needs can be partially and in some instances fully met by GE’s diverse technologies, services and solutions in key sectors. Last year, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement with Kenya to develop projects in key sectors such as power, rail, healthcare, aviation and training& capacity building to deliver on the country’s Vision 2030 plan.
These sectors are well positioned to propel the East Africa Region and in particular Kenya to be a top 30 global economy by the year 2030. We are therefore excited to be an integral part of contributing towards supporting the region to attain the projected positive economic growth.
In Tanzania GE recently signed a 400MW Joint Development Agreement with Symbion Power Tanzania for the development of a natural gas-fired power plant for Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (TANESCO). This partnership is part of USA President Obama’s recently announced “Power Africa” initiative aimed at combining $7 billion in U.S. support with more than $9 billion in commitments from the private sector to help U.S. companies build independent power plants in the region.
2) Can you give us a breakdown of your business interests in the region?
Yes. GE’s business offering in the region is positioned to improve the overall standards of living be it in bringing an improvement in, infrastructure development, access to quality and affordable healthcare, efficiency in the rail network system or providing solutions to increase the power supply. Our businesses cut across key sectors including but not limited to: aviation, energy, and healthcare and rail transportation. For example:
Our aviation business, supplies aircraft engines and services aircrafts for Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Rwandair.
The East Africa region like the rest of Africa has broad energy needs such as low electrification, as well as an inconsistent and insufficient power supply. These needs can be met by GE’s portfolio of energy generation and management solutions which is the largest globally offered by a single company. For instance we have a successful track record in Tanzania with our Aero- derivative gas turbine technology which is running in the Symbion plant in Ubungo (112MW) and Songas (140MW) respectively.
We also have a great waste to energy project here in Kenya at the Biojule Farm which is using two of GE’s Jenbacher biogas engines to generate 2.8 MW of electricity from vegetable waste. The project, owned by Tropical Power, marks the first biogas engine project in sub-Saharan Africa for Clarke Energy, GE’s authorized Jenbacher gas engine distributor in the region. GE and Clarke Energy have collaborated on numerous natural gas and biogas projects in other countries on the African continent.
Our healthcare business continues to provide transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new age of patient care. The business is working closely with its Kenya and other African stakeholders to provide African inspired solutions to Africa’s challenges in the sector. An example of which is the Carestation 30 anesthesia delivery system which was developed with input from Kenyan clinicians. It addresses the challenges that clinicians encounter when it comes to routine and emergency surgery in low resource areas, like rural areas.
The Carestation 30 features an integrated SpO2 measurement (the measure of the level of oxygen in the blood), designed for the needs of Africa and other rural healthcare settings. It provides clinicians with the right monitoring tools, including integrated pulse oximetry, that help improve the quality of care for patients. As well as the ability for clinicians to view patient data and alarm indicators on a colour display, allowing efficient access to critical information.
Another key aspect of the compact and relatively inexpensive system is a battery that lasts up to six hours, a critical component in the midst of intermittent power. It also offers are an excellent user experience as it is compact and ergonomic with an intuitive user interface and a comprehensive training package .i.e. combining technology and education for a safer surgery and better outcomes.
Transportation (rail sector)
The East African region has been instrumental in championing the importance of regional integration and strengthening its position as a regional trading block. To achieve the latter, an efficient rail network system with new or renewed rolling stock of locomotives is key. Our Transportation business provides commuter and freight rail solutions to Africa’s vast and aging rail networks. We worked on the Kenya Railways fleet renewal programme, and assisted the company in improving the efficiency of aging locomotive fleets. In Tanzania and Zambia, we modernized 18 locomotives for the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority, and installed the GE Bright Star control system. We continue to work with our customers and other stakeholders to find ways of delivering an efficient rail network in the region by 2030.
3) Any specific projects you want to tell us about?
We recently partnered with the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) to launch and co-fund the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge (the Power Africa Challenge), a three-year, USD $2 million challenge. The funding will award 20 or more grants of up to $100,000 each to indigenous African organizations providing off-grid solutions that deploy renewable resources and power economic activities.
We are also supplying Safaricom with GE Durathon batteries which will capacitate the Safaricom network to run efficiently during power outages. The battery provides reliable and cost-effective power at reduced fuel costs and is one of the first batteries in the world to be designed specifically for Charge Discharge Cycling (CDC) telecom applications. By using batteries as the primary energy source in a continuous charge-discharge-cycling (CDC) operating mode, fuel costs and emissions can be substantially reduced and overall system efficiency dramatically improved
4) What do you think are the main challenges?
The energy challenges are three fold and relate to the insufficient and inconsistent supply of energy as well as a cost effective pricing structure for both businesses and households.
5) Why did you decide to partner with EAPIC?
GE is committed to working with public and private sector stakeholders to address the region’s current and future energy challenges. The EAPIC offers a platform to engage industry stakeholders on this topic.
6) What will be your main message at the event?
GE’s main message at the event will be to highlight the importance of public and private sector partnership in delivering sustainable and cost effective energy alternatives to the region.
7) Anything you would like to add?
EAPIC provides a commendable strategic engagement platform that brings together industry stakeholders to share their best practice and deliberate on how best to solve the region’s energy challenges. The immediate and long term solutions needed to solve the region’s power challenges will only be achieved by collective engagement and participation. We look forward to sharing our experiences with industry stakeholders and also learn from their experiences.