General Electric, or GE, has been a household brand and extraordinarily successful energy company since the early 20th century in the United States; however, few Americans know about the huge impact that GE has had in Africa.
While GE has operated in Africa for over a century, in 2011 the company began investing heavily in African power. The company currently operates in Angola, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Among those, South Africa has the most robust power grid, with 80 percent of its rural homes having access to electricity.
For most other parts of Africa, access to electricity is far less abundant. In a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2013 an estimated 635 million or two-thirds of the population in Africa lived without electricity. All but 1 million of these individuals were located in the sub-Saharan region.
The almost universal lack of energy in Africa is a very costly problem. The IEA estimates that it would require over $300 billion in investments to achieve universal access by 2030.
Despite the seemingly dire status of infrastructure for electricity in Africa, GE has committed many significant resources across the continent in the past few years. GE employs 2,600 people in Africa, reports $4 billion in revenues and sponsors a volunteer program in various African countries.
The energy company also plans to expand to countries whose economies are struggling like Ethiopia and Mozambique. Just a quarter of the population of Ethiopia and only a fifth of the population of Mozambique had access to electricity in 2012 according to World Bank data.
A recent GE project will add a 300 megawatt system to Ghana this year, bringing an additional 20 percent of electrical capacity to the country’s entire grid.
Global CEO of GE, Steve Bolze commented on the company’s progress in Africa, saying “Africa for now is a $4 billion business for GE. It’s a big business. It’s going double digit. Our power business is close to 35 percent of that.” Additionally, the company plans to invest $2 billion in Africa in the next two years, and double its African workforce.
– John English