Chiboni“… the strain placed on our members by the constraints in our domestic environment has focussed our attention on the rest of the continent.”

Exclusive interview with Ms. Chiboni Evans, Chief Executive Officer, South African Electrotechnical Export Council  – a longstanding partner of African Utility Week.

Q: Can we start with a question about the SAEEC, its goals, history?

A: The South African Electrotechnical Export Council (SAEEC) is a public-private-partnership between South African business and the Department of Trade and Industry (thedti).

Members of the SAEEC are South African registered companies that are manufacturers and providers of products and related services from the Electrotechnical sector namely: Electrical Engineering, Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications

The Council was founded in June 1999 and our aim is to address opportunities and issues affecting exporting companies by capitalising on our combined strength. We provide a value-added and cost-effective service to our members with the main focus on growing exports by identifying and facilitating opportunities, influencing trade policy issues and providing operational and logistical support for our exporters.

In order to provide a holistic support offering to our members and to grow the participation of South African companies in infrastructure projects across the African continent, the SAEEC has forged a grouping with five other Export Councils in the technology and engineering sectors. The Councils within this grouping include the Built Environment Professions Export Council, Rail Road Association, International Steel Fabricators, Capital Equipment Export Council and Steel Tube Export Association.

The SAEEC also acts as a neutral and formal gateway for public and private organisations and companies that are looking to form partnerships or source goods and services from South African companies in this sector. Additionally the SAEEC also provides an important platform on which to coordinate the export marketing efforts of the sector as well as being an official conduit to government to enhance strategies and policies to improve the export support environment.

Q: Is the SAEEC working on any specific projects that are exciting?

A: In 2014 the SAEEC Board of Directors and senior management made a decision to focus on supporting thedti’s drive to diversify and increase the base of South African exporters. Thus, we have embarked on a program, supported by the dti to develop the Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in our sector to realistically and successfully supply goods and services into large infrastructure projects. Our initial focus sector will be “Africa Power”.

Because of the global focus on developing the Power Infrastructure in Africa, this sector (Power) presents great business opportunities for South African companies. The Power Africa Initiative, launched by President Obama in 2013, proposes to ensure that 70% of Africa is electrified by 2030. This will require an estimated investment in Africa’s Power Infrastructure projects of US$7 Billion per annum over the next 15 years.

We have therefore developed, and are running a specific project, which is aimed at recruiting, retaining and developing Emerging Exporters in the Electrotechnical sector. Currently, 53% of the SAEEC membership are Small Medium and Micro Enterprises and 12% can be classified as emerging exporters per the South African Department of Trade and Industry definition. We intend to grow this base by recruiting and supporting sustainable SMMEs, particularly black and women owned organisations.

The SMME membership although commendable at 53% is still lacking in that very few of these companies are neither majority black owned and/or women owned enterprises (BOE and/or WOE).

The initial focus of the SAEEC is thus to identify those predominately BOE and WOE enterprise and develop them as emerging exporters in the Electrical Engineering /Power sub-sector of the Electrotechnical sector.

The companies to be taken through this current SAEEC emerging exporter development program comprise ten companies of which 25% are women owned and four are 100% black owned.   The objective of the SAEEC is to expose companies to export opportunities through technical training and profiling them at key events where decision makers to the West and East African Power Pools are present.

The African Utility Week (AUW) is the first event of a series of exhibitions that the Emerging Exporters will participate in, the other proposed events are the East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC) in August 2015 and the West Africa Power Industry Convention (WAPIC) in November 2015.

Thirty six (36) SAEEC member companies including eleven (11) emerging exporters are exhibiting at Africa Utility Week 2015. The larger of our member companies exhibiting will also support and mentor our emerging exporters during this event.

To increase the exposure of our member companies, especially our emerging exporters, to key decision makers from African utilities we have, with the support of our Export Promotion Directorate at thedti, also secured the participation of twelve delegates from the Power Ministries and Utilities of four African countries this year.

Q: You have been a longstanding supporter of Spintelligent events, particularly African Utility Week and other power events in Africa. What keeps you coming back to the CTICC?

A: The SAEEC and its members finds the format employed by the event organisers of AUW, EAPIC and WAPIC conducive to doing business and to promoting the objectives of our organisation. The level of delegates is both appropriate and relevant as we seek to facilitate international trade for our members. Additionally the content of conferences and workshops have proved to be extremely valuable for our members and key stakeholders.

Together with the event organisers Spintelligent and with the support of the Export Promotion Division of the South African Department of Trade and Industry we have, through these events, developed a product and service offering for our members which seeks to:

  • Support the development of our SMME’s
  • Grow the exports of our more developed and experienced exporters
  • Increase collaboration between member companies as they seek and explore opportunities, especially on the African continent. We continue to promote the “Team South Africa” approach to doing business.

Our aim is to use these events (AUW, EAPIC and WAPIC) to establish a strong presence for South African goods and services within our sector on the African continent.

The status of “Trade Association Partner” acquired by the SAEEC at AUW 2015 is testament to our longstanding, ongoing and increased support for these events.

Q: What is the message of the SAEEC at this year’s African Utility Week?

A: The time has come for Africa to provide solutions for Africa by Africans. I am confident that visiting delegates from the various utilities across Africa will be impressed with the goods, services and solutions offered by all the SAEEC member companies exhibiting at AUW. SAEEC member companies, including our emerging exporters are well qualified, technically competent and have a range of goods and services that will be of interest to many decision makers from our African utilities.

AUW is recognised as the only global meeting place, conference and trade exhibition for African power and water utility professionals and offers a unique networking opportunity for engineers, stakeholders and solution providers alike. Profiling the SAEEC emerging exporters at this prestigious event has been made possible with the support of thedti.

Q: What is the feedback about African Utility Week from your members?

A: The SAEEC and its members finds the format employed by the event organisers of AUW, EAPIC and WAPIC conducive to doing business. They are always impressed by the level of delegates that attend this event and are appreciative of the high quality of presentations and workshops offered.

Q:What do you see as the main challenges in the utility industry in South Africa?

A: The challenges faced by the South African Power Utility Eskom are known to all. The Eskom challenges have a “knock on” effect on the Electrotechnical sector. However, the strain placed on our members by the constraints in our domestic environment has focussed our attention on the rest of the continent.

Q: Anything you would like to add?

A: South Africa should not only offer capabilities and competences of our sector to our compatriots on the African continent but also our learnings. The impact of inadequate planning for both new builds and maintenance of Power plants in South Africa has been felt by all facets of our economy. We must use the capabilities in our sector to not only stabilise the situation in South Africa but to also assist with the development of sustainable solutions for the African continent as a whole. We should therefore engage with other utilities on the continent to share our knowledge and learnings and ensure that the few (but costly) mistakes made in South Africa are avoided as the rest of the continent implements its Power Infrastructure plans.