GE's Nani Beccalli-Falco Africa can bypass technology gap.

Author:Yedder, Omar Ben
Position:Interview
 
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Ferdinando 'Nani' Beccalli-Falco was appointed president and CEO of GE International 2005, based in Brussels, Belgium. He joined GE in 1975 and is today primarily responsible for directing the strategies of one of the world's largest companies for growth outside of its US base. GE International's turnover in emerging markets is around $30bn per year and growth in its African operations has been over 45% per year. The company is active in practically all sectors bar that of finance. Nani Beccalli-Falco talks with African Business' associate publisher, Omar Ben Yedder, about his company's involvement in Africa's power and water sectors.

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African Business: How does Africa's power sector fare against similar sectors in China and India?

Ferdinando Beccalli-Falco: The energy climate is red hot all over the world, and it is difficult to make a distinction between China, India and Africa because the demand for power is very strong everywhere. When you look at Africa, and specifically the development of the continent's mining industries in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Angola and elsewhere, you can see that demand for power is increasing exponentially.

I would say that the base in Africa is smaller today than in China, or in India for that matter, but the growth rate is very, very similar as far as the demand and need for energy is concerned.

In Africa there is already a gap between supply and demand. Even in South Africa they are anticipating huge problems to meet the country's growing energy needs and we all know about Nigeria's power sector predicament. When you look at the numbers, when you look at the needs, you see that the power needs in southern Africa are very important.

We often talk about Africa as one place, but you have to look at African regions separately. And to simplify this, I would divide Africa into three areas; North Africa; South Africa and the rest of Africa. South Africa is a gem in the rough--I always compare South Africa with Canada and Australia and it has a tremendous influence on the neighbouring economies of Angola, Namibia and Mozambique. It's a leading country, a kind of a lighthouse. And then there is sub-Saharan Africa, and that is where the greatest problems are in terms of energy. When we talk about Africa, we are not talking about a homogenous continent, we are talking about at least three different areas, if not more.

African Business: GE currently has operations in seven African countries. In Algeria for example, you have a huge desalination project; in Egypt you are in power, healthcare and transportation. How do you define your African activities?

Beccalli-Falco: I would say that GE's activities are distributed evenly on several different business fronts with the exception of financial services. We have been trying to develop a financial services market mainly in the Mediterranean basin rim and in South Africa, but without a clear...

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