‘Nigeria requires power, robust infrastructure to attract investors’
The Chief Executive Officer, ABB Limited, Ulrich Spiesshofer, paid a visit to Nigeria as part of the week-long trip to several African countries recently. He had interactions with the Presidency and identified investment and growth opportunities in the power sector. In this interview with SULAIMON SALAU, he reveals the company’s investment plan and identifies crucial factors that would facilitate growth in the industry.
ABB was here in Nigeria but left sometimes ago. Why are you returning? What has changed?
If you take ABB history about Nigeria, we are proud to be in Nigeria for more than 40 years. ABB is going to be here for a long time. Looking forward, we are fully committed to continue the more than 40 years journey of ABB in Nigeria.
Mohammed, our new Country Manager, is willing to get off with the local team to drive growth, to bring our latest technologies to Nigeria and to go out and support the utility sector, the industry sector and transport infrastructure.
These are the three sectors that ABB typically serves with very strong power and automation offering, and we are fully committed here. The reason for my visit is to show that we are committed to supporting Nigeria’s current growth trajectory and the vision of the government. We’ve had meetings with government officials and it’s very clear that the agenda of Nigeria in upgrading utilities, the power sector, and the industry side matches perfectly with the capabilities of ABB. We can even become stronger partners and we have the commitment to that. Operating in Nigeria is challenging but once you position yourself correctly in the market, things start to become much smoother. Bureaucracy, currency devaluation and finding the right resources among other elements put a bit of pressure, yet the overall environment is progressing in the right way.
Why invest in emerging and developing markets like Nigeria?
Emerging and developing markets are the secrets behind growth and we aim to grow sustainably. Nigeria requires power and robust infrastructure to attain its goals in the welfare of the people and attract foreign investments in several domains. ABB can play an outstanding role in providing the right solutions as well as harnessing its innovation to execute those goals.
You were active in Nigeria’s transmission lines back in those days. You even had a workshop in Lagos but later sold it. One of the major problems in the power sector relates to transmission incapacity. How would you play in that sector?
ABB is the global market leader in transmission and distribution not only in size of the business but in terms of leading technology. If you look at the needs of Nigeria, you need to make sure you improve the installed capacity of the power generation and the power safely, reliably and efficiently transmitted to the points of consumption. At the moment, the power grid has its challenges and you have too many outages and unreliable power.
This jeopardizes the competiveness not only of the power grid itself but of industries. Because if you are running an industry, you need reliable power, so you have to invest in power which is expensive, but with our technology, we will ensure that you get more value out of the existing grid. We can help Nigeria upgrade the grids to world class infrastructure environment.
The country has vast natural resources and these vast resources will find its way into the industrial value chain. But to get the industrial chain up and running, you must have a reliable power infrastructure on all levels – on the transmission and on the distribution levels to make sure you safe guard the competitiveness of the country. We can help on the one hand with the flow of electrons, so you have reliable the power flowing in the grids and the second element, we can with our technology that will control the bits and bytes in a smart way and there are many other opportunities to enhance the Nigerian grid.
Alltogether, we have been a strong partner before the grids were built before the investments in the power sector was scaled down but now that the investments are looking up, we are positioned to support. We are also positioned to invest in the local team.
Talking of investment in the local team, it presupposes investment in local human capital development. How much investment are you making in this regard?
Our investments follow opportunities. We spend $1.5 billion yearly every year in research and development. We spend globally, more than a billion dollars on capital expenditure. The opportunities that will arise will get the appropriate funding. I am not concerned about the size of the money; I am more concerned about understanding the opportunities and how to invest in them. You mentioned investment in people, it is crucial for Nigeria to ramp up the effort around education. We have offered our support and experience not in terms of university engineers but also in terms of vocational trainings, of service technicians in technical apprenticeship. Because if you look at some of the reasons for your power outages, it’s not because the engineering is wrong but the overall reliability of the facilities are not being maintained at that level and you need technicians to do that.
Do you have any particular project you are targeting to invest and have you commenced discussions with the government on the project?
In terms of the projects, there are many projects in the pipeline that are being discussed and we are participating in some particularly in sub-stations upgrades and expansions. The good news is that with new technology, we can help the power need more effectively than 15 years ago. 15 years ago, everyone had to be connected to the conventional grid but now, we have micro grids, which can power up decentralized remote villages and cites. At the same time, we are ready to upgrade the overall integration. ABB’s strong presence in Lagos and Abuja is strategic to explore opportunities in various and diversified areas including transmission and distribution, oil & gas, process industries and many other new trends such as renewables, micro-grids and data centers. ABB provides special care for service activities with In-house local service team certified in various fields to meet customers’ needs.
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