Siemens has been active in Africa since 1976. CEO André Bouffioux went there for business for the first time in 1993. “You can only do business in a country or area you have appreciation for and see the potential of. As soon as you realize that Africa offers a huge market, lots of goodwill, proper education and positive entrepreneurs, you’re ready to do business there.”
It goes without saying that Siemens only invests in Africa because it is sure that it can make money there. André Bouffioux wants to have a hand in the progress of the continent, in concert with local business people.
Going back in time
On his 15th birthday André traveled to Morocco with his family. They criss-crossed the country in a Renault 4 and saw mountains, beaches, snow and cities and they were welcomed everywhere. This trip must have made an impression on the young André, because he chose Marrakesh for his honeymoon destination years later. He has also cemented the link with Africa in a professional sense since 1993.
The Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs philosophy dovetails with the Siemens philosophy. The company wants to support its future customers in the form of education and coaching. Siemens would like local students and entrepreneurs to share in their experience, support them to get an education and sponsor them with resources. This cooperation benefits both the company and the local communities.
Siemens has the expertise and technology to offer solutions to many sustainability issues globally, such as wind power, CO2 emissions, fuels, water and so on.
Siemens has three criteria when it comes to supporting projects: they must be in Africa, use technology applications and create added value for the next generation.
Through Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs, Siemens came into contact with NGO partner Louvain Coopération and with IngénieuxSud, the project Siemens is supporting this year. About 80 science and technology students of the UCL participate in this. In collaboration with other universities worldwide they search for specific solutions that will enable sustainable business operations in future.
Over the course of many years Siemens has invested in a number of water projects. In Ghana a pump station distributes drinking water and the company has also installed hundreds of pump stations in Congo and Algeria too. Siemens has also supported projects in Senegal, Cambodia, Mali, India and Burkina Faso since 2004.
It is impossible for Siemens to monitor all these projects in practice, so it relies on Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs to do this.
The Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs philosophy dovetails with the Siemens philosophy. The company wants to support its future customers in the form of education and coaching. Siemens would like local students and entrepreneurs to share in their experience, support them to get an education and sponsor them with resources.
There are a number of different innovative solutions that can make a difference in Africa. “The most significant changes will come about with the advent of the industrial internet of things”, predicts André Bouffioux. That will enable smoother monitoring and managing of electricity bills, flux rates and security. Non-technical losses on the networks range between 20% and 30%. That percentage would be easy to reduce with the digitalization of industrial applications.
André Bouffioux has a few tips for entrepreneurs who want to invest in Africa. He considers risk management as the prime factor when investing in the South. His advice is to take measures to estimate political, financial, technical and continuity risks. And patience is definitely a virtue. When all is said and done, investing in human relations is the key to success, just like in Belgium.
André Bouffioux, the job student who became CEO
CEO André Bouffioux will be celebrating his tenth year at the helm of Siemens Belgium-Luxembourg and North, West and Central Africa. He first came into contact with the company more than thirty years ago, when he was still a job student.
He worked as a fitter in sugar refineries and power stations, he laid cables, installed electrical conduits and performed service activities. This taught him about working in the field. After following a trainee program he relocated to Germany to become a project manager at Siemens in Karlsruhe. He headed up a sub-project in Berlin for a fluidized bed power station. André didn’t speak any German, so an intensive course of a week had to suffice. He originally left for three months, but eventually stayed until the wall in Germany was demolished.
In 1989 André returned to Belgium as a sales engineer in the chemicals, pharmaceutical and glass industry. He was promoted to group leader and in 1998 to head of department.
After a couple of stints throughout Germany as BU leader with activities in 60 countries, in France as division director, in Luxembourg as CEO and back to Germany in 2007 for a strategic project, in 2008 André Bouffioux became CEO of Siemens Belgium, Luxembourg and later of French-speaking Africa too.
Siemens is committed
Siemens Belgium was there at the birth of Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs in 2000. Its operations are guaranteed thanks to the support it receives from Siemens and 15 other core members. Siemens is also represented on the Board of Directors and supports a project in the South every year. There are many other smaller activities too:
- an annual sporting event that the staff participate in during the Brussels 20 km, which is held to benefit Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs
- on women’s day the female employees had the opportunity to hear how entrepreneurial Senegalese women were able to kick-start their economic activities thanks to the support provided by Siemens. It was followed by an interactive workshop led by Eunice from Kenya on the state of the economy in her country, fashion and local culture.
- Siemens has also donated used laptops, printers and telephones to two non-profit organizations since 2016 to help bridge the digital divide in developing countries.
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