Siemens has been operating in Nigeria for over 40 years now. The managing Director, Alain De Cat, who attended the 2011, 4th Nigerian-German Business Association forum, was on with the Editor-in-Chief, Affar G. Okhaimor to explain the role of Siemens in Nigeria and the importance of the forum. Excerpts:
Tell us your name and the company you are representing?
My name is Alain De Cat. I am from Belgium, 43 years old and I am the managing Director of Siemens Nigeria.
When did you come to Nigeria?
I started my duties on April 1st in 2010, so it’s about a year and some months now.
What products does Siemens offer?
Siemens is basically divided into three (3) sectors. Energy, Industry and health care. In energy one finds a complete energy conversion chain from oil and gas to power generation that is gas based, coal based and renewables. Energy services; power transmission and distribution. Industry is more of industry automation drive technology, building technology and everything related to mobility. The health sector is about imagining to diagnostics.
What is the market situation like; I mean, are you making good sales here?
Nigeria is moving fast and the number one priority is power. You consider all related topics starting from building plans to maintaining all existing facilities to expanding the transmission, distribution networks and capacity building. On top of it is the huge privatization exercise which will have a major impact on the total landscape. So the entire industry is moving. The second priority is oil and gas. The Petroleum Industry Bill is also going to be a game changer about the way local engagements is taking place in the country. A third point is agriculture. It is also a big boost and one of the trends we see, is that more of food processing should happen in Nigeria. Siemens can significantly contribute through Plant Automation. Last but not least, investment in healthcare is also resuming. I think the Siemens portfolio really fits into Nigeria.
Despite all these, what are the challenges doing business in Nigeria?
I think the biggest challenge we have, is how to find enough people with the right skills to realize projects in the country. There are lot of people with strong education and very intelligent but you need to bring them to the level where they can use the skills to enable them handle the job well. It is a big challenge and to overcome this challenge, we opened a training center: The Power Academy.
‘’I also believe that Nigerian firms should also look for partnerships so that the German industries would see where the ‘win win’ manpower and technology transfer is’’. Another challenge is financing a project. The interests’ rates of the banks are still very high.
Let us talk about this forum, what is your opinion about it?
I am very glad to be part of this bilateral forum and I am particular happy about the comments of both the German Chancellor and the Nigerian President on the importance of energy for both countries. Germany has decided to drop the nuclear energy source by the year 2022. This is a revolution and Nigeria can contribute to a Nuclear-Free Germany by selling Gas to German utilities. Germany can contribute by bringing more power technology to Nigeria. So, the confirmation of the importance of Nigeria Germany Energy Partnership is for me big news. I am well pleased that it is more than just words but the road map is already being confirmed. You can see that stakeholders from the two countries are both here present to be able to share ideas about starting future projects.
“With 15,000MV power available, a lot of small and medium firms would flourish. This is what made Germany successful”
In your own opinion, do you think more Germans are coming here to do business?
I cannot really speak of other companies that are not Siemens. But I am sure that this type of forum is bringing more transparency to Nigeria and when investors are sure of what the opportunities are, they would come because I know there are good opportunities here. Though, there is image deficit about Nigeria. People do not know what is taking place here. They see a kind of uniform insecurity in the country and some other problems that they do not know what the situation is like. It may be difficult, but potential investors should come and see what is on ground. I think this is one advantage of this forum. They need to see the government officials, the Governors and companies alike so that they can know what is going on.
With respect to all these, what advice do you give to Nigerian businessmen or the government to attract more people to the country?
They should give a clear picture of what the opportunities here are. Put a regular framework to make transparency more felt. I also believe that Nigerian firms should also look for partnerships so that the German industries would see where the ‘win win’ manpower and technology transfer is.
Where do you see Nigeria in the next five years considering the Germans coming to assist the Nigerian economy?
What I think is more important is power. With 15,000MV power available, a lot of small and medium firms would flourish. This is what made Germany successful: small and medium scale businesses that gave added value to the value-chain. This would be a right step towards helping the economy. I hope and it is my wish that with more power, this would work for Nigeria, create more middle class society and by that, reduce poverty and make Nigeria stronger.