“Innovation starts with a need and there are so many needs here in South Africa and on the continent,” Tim Schweikert told CNBC Africa.
“It’s really a matter of marrying our industrial portfolio and innovating and reconfiguring [it] in a way that can solve the most challenging problems here in South Africa and on the continent.”
General Electric (GE) South Africa has said that it will be investing 700 million rand towards critical skills and small business development.
“There is tremendous opportunity here and there’s tremendous capability. It’s easy to get bogged down but we try to focus on the opportunities,” Schweikert said.
“The foundation here opens [up] a level playing field to bring in companies like GE, enables us to invest not just monetarily but in terms of skills development as well.”
The company will reportedly designate 500 million rand of its investment towards a centre of excellence for innovation and technology transfer.
A further 200 million rand will be designated towards providing funding and business support for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) selected to be a part of the GE global supply chain.
“Our approach, not just here in South Africa but around the world, is to be a local company. We are very keen to localise our operations and that includes hiring local people, developing skills here but also localising our products,” he explained.
“We wanted to launch both the Customer Innovation Centre (CIC) as well as the STV as a platform to help us localise our businesses here in South Africa, in Southern Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Schweikert added that while most job creation is done at the small to medium enterprise level, government must also play an active role in these investments.
“In any country we find that there has to be cooperation between private enterprise and government to support each other,” he said.
“We engage the government and we are very interested in dialogue in terms of seeing things that we think need to be improved upon and we listen to their inputs in terms of things we can be doing. We see it very much as a partnership.”