GE getting it right in Nigeria

GE is planning to invest $1bn over the next five years in the Nigerian oil and gas services sector. In itself, not very big news. Big multinational companies are frequently investing large sums of money looking to take advantage of Nigeria’s number one international export.

But GE’s investment is different. Unlike so many former oil and gas-related investments by large multinationals, GE is committing hundreds of millions of dollars to benefiting the community in which it operates. And this is no mere ‘box ticking’ gesture to keep the local authorities happy.

Of the $1bn it plans to invest, GE says:

“$750m will be allocated to sourcing local supplies and employee training in the surrounding communities, as well as expanding GE’s service facility in Onne [in port Harcourt].”

The remaining $250m, GE says, will go towards building a manufacturing plant that will employ and train 2,300 local people in nearby Calabar.

Empowering local people

This is an astonishing amount of money to be spending on helping local communities. But GE says the benefits of reliable local suppliers and a skilled local workforce will in the long term far outweigh the cost of the initial investment. Kenny Yeats, GE’s operations leader and regional services manager, says that investing in Africa’s future leaders is a “big focus” for GE. “We believe that when you equip people with necessary tools and empower them with specific skills plus techniques, they would be able to deliver sterling performance,” he says.

Foundations built on local know-how

I agree completely with Kenny. It is far more cost effective in the long term to train and employ people from the surrounding area than to draft in expensive professionals from abroad. With this in mind, GE is spending $2.4m alone on training Nigerian engineering graduates to form the core technical staff of its oil services operations in the Port of Onne.

And, according to GE’s website, the Calabar site will: “Lay the foundation for knowledge and technology transfer to Nigerian sub-suppliers [and] academic institutions.” The site will also include a training centre for technical and leadership development, with GE planning to invest $2m to support building and equipment upgrades, curriculum development and teacher training.

This is a far-sighted investment that will reap long-term rewards, both for GE and Nigerians. Bravo GE!

Rosalind Kainyah, MBE, Founder and Managing Director

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