Executive from GE Africa made the global local at Kellogg’s Africa Business Conference
4/14/2014 - Africa is not “Africa,” GE Africa Chief Financial Officer Thomas Konditi
told a crowd of Kellogg students Saturday.
Too often, Konditi said, people from outside Africa picture a homogenous social and business climate and fail to take into account the diversity of the continent and its nearly 60 nations.
“Morocco is as different from Malawi as South Africa is from the D.R.C.,” said Konditi, the keynote speaker at this weekend’s Africa Business Conference
at the Allen Center.
The event, hosted by the Africa Business Club
, tackled issues ranging from entrepreneurship and investment in African countries to a debate on the growing relationship with China.
See a photo gallery from the event.
“We chose Mr. Konditi because as CFO of a global business in Africa, we felt he could provide a broad overview of what it takes to conduct business across the continent,” Conference co-Chair Nene Antonio ’14 said.
Powering a continent
In his talk, Kenyan-born Konditi shared his experiences with GE Africa, where he has worked since 1994. The business has been experiencing 30 to 40 percent growth each year for the past several years and now generates about a quarter of all the power in Africa.
“Power is not just another thing you do – it’s a thing you have to do,” Konditi told the assembled crowd. “Hospitals don’t run without power. Airports don’t run without power. Industry doesn’t run without power.”
Konditi oversees sub-Saharan Africa finance, capital markets, financial services, treasury and tax support for the $2 billion operation across 14 countries.
Antonio said GE’s position in Africa was part of the reason they were excited to have Konditi speak.
“GE has recently made a big push into growing the African business and therefore his experiences were very applicable to what is currently pertaining in terms of the business environment,” Antonio said.
Konditi kept reiterating the importance of local, ground-level knowledge needed to work in Africa.
He said companies often start with a one-size-fits-all approach for Africa before realizing the nuances needed to make headway the second-largest continent on the globe.
“You are going to end up being local,” Konditi said, alluding to the inevitability. “How are you going to do it?”