US multinational GE has opened a ZAR500 million (US$32. million) innovation centre in Johannesburg, which will aim to unearth innovative solutions “for Africa, by Africans”.
The 2,700m2 centre is GE’s 10th globally but its first in Africa, and is located alongside the Killarney Country Club golf course near Rosebank in northern Johannesburg.
GE Africa president and chief executive officer (CEO) Jay Ireland said the investment demonstrated the company’s ongoing commitment to the continent and finding innovative solutions to Africa’s infrastructure and healthcare problems.
He said the centre was a “collaborative workspace” aimed at unearthing innovative solutions “for Africa, by Africans”.
“GE is committed to driving innovation in Africa for Africa through supporting skills and SME development. The GE Africa Innovation Centre is one platform through which we are using our resources to empower ourselves and our stakeholders to positively contribute towards the sustainable development of Africa,” he said.
“We are looking to impact and enhance the career aspirations of over 100 engineers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. These are young people who will come through the centre and share their innovative solutions, whilst learning from some of the best GE minds in their respective fields.”
The innovation centre also houses a learning and development centre, which will expose participants to the various GE curriculums on offer, from its leadership courses to various “universities” focusing on energy, transport and healthcare.
Space has also been allocated for collaborative projects and solution prototyping, with state-owned freight logistics group Transnet having already signed up to partner with GE on various rail localisation projects.
The centre is also aspiring to support the development of small businesses capable of supplying the local market, and potentially GE’s global supply chains, and will serve as a base for the Londvolota Enterprise Development Trust, launched in 2015 to help accelerate supplier development in South Africa.
GE South Africa president and CEO Thomas Konditi said while South Africa was hosting the centre, the aim was to serve the entire region.
“The ultimate goal of the centre is excellence and collaboration for GE, its customers and stakeholders across Africa,” he said.