In conversation with
Managing Director | Atlas Copco Botswana (Pty )Ltd
FDI Spotlight: One of the major concerns in Africa at the moment is the mining sector. How have you needed to prepare for the changes in and to this industry coming up?
Archibald Seleka: Mining in Botswana has taken a significant hit which has affected us. However, there is still a lot we can do in consumables and supporting the current products in the mines, specifically the diamond mines. Miners are under extreme pressure, and this pressure is being pushed back onto us as the supplier. It has made us look more into how we can diversify and what we can do for our customers.
In 2018 Atlas Copco will split into two segments. The new company will focus on our mining and civil engineering customers. The new company will also be listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm Stock Exchange, and the investors will remain the same across to two companies. The new company, named Epiroc, will have its own Board of Directors who will set the direction.
Per Lindberg, who is the president and CEO of renewable packaging materials and solutions supplier BillerundKoras AB, has been selected Epiroc’s CEO. The management team has also been recruited and announced in August as Helena Hedblom Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure; Anders Lindén as Senior Vice President Controlling and Finance (CFO); Mattias Olsson as Senior Vice President Corporate Communications; and Jörgen Ekelöw as Senior Vice President General Counsel.
Epiroc is an example of the future of this industry and how Atlas Copco sees the future. Mining and the services within it, therefore, need to be refocused to address the future coming.
In terms of value add, what are you doing in Botswana and do you think you can localise more of your services and internal workings?
Archibald Seleka: We are using South Africa as a hub for the production, distribution and repairs of the heavy spares and components in our various products. However, we need to localise this as much as possible, which will be a value add. We believe we can localise specifically on the component repairs of the machines together with the general maintenance on them.
There are many challenges and opportunities within this space, which would cause a significant level of investment in suitable facilities and test equipment. We will have to first deal with issues such as training which will allow us to deliver on the government’s objectives of skills transfer and local employment.
Do you feel that the Botswana people have a natural inclination towards entrepreneurship and that enough is done promote and foster an entrepreneurial culture?
Archibald Seleka: Yes, I believe there is a spirit of entrepreneurship here. The government does a lot of work regarding promoting and nurturing that mindset. I can see how they are trying to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in many areas, particularly amongst the youth.
However, there is so much more that can be done. The private sector has to take more of an active role in helping Botswana’s entrepreneurs. We are the people who will enable them to thrive. We are on the ground; we see what is happening, and we need to push the agenda and work in close collaboration with government.
In Botswana, it is very doable due to the size of the population and the fact you can reach any government minister and officials easier than in, for example, South Africa. If we do not work together as the public and private sectors to make sure we put our entrepreneurs first, we will have a big problem.
What is your opinion on the level of skills of the new workforce and what would be your message to new university graduates?
Archibald Seleka: Frankly I do not believe what is coming out of the universities and tertiaries are what Botswana needs. I have conducted quite a few interviews with graduates, and I do not think they are sufficiently equipped for Botswana’s industries and what they have been taught is not always appropriate for what we are trying to do.
I see a fundamental mismatch between what is coming out of universities and what the market is looking for. There is a mismatch between their skills, the level of their skills and what the current market requires. There is a total disconnect between education and industry in many African countries; not only in Botswana but South Africa.
For instance, Technician level training in Botswana has a low share of tertiary enrolments. This means we are training far less of the Electronic/Electrical, Computer Engineering, Instrumentation and Mechanical Technicians we desperately need for a growing economy such as ours.
Further compounded because Physical Science and Mathematics subject enrolment at secondary schools is less than 10 percent of recent times. Without producing sufficient graduates in the pure sciences and mathematics in sufficient quantities we cannot take advantage of the huge technological revolution taking place as we speak, and as a country, we cannot expect to at the same time realise an increase in research and innovation which underpins rapid and sustainable economic development.