A vigorous focus on expanding sales beyond South Africa’s borders has seen Zest open a branch in Accra, Ghana, to service the entire West African region.
Louis Meiring, Zest Group managing director says: “As one of the continent’s most prominent suppliers of electric motors, variable speed drives, transformers and switchgear, we have experienced particular growth in West Africa over the past 10 years, primarily by supplying project houses who have secured projects to build mines in the region. We have a massive installed base on mines in the region and decided it was appropriate to establish a dedicated local supply and technical support hub.
“Until now we have been heavily dependent on distributors to move our products into countries such as Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Mali. Our product spectrum has also expanded beyond electric motors to include products supplied by other group companies and it makes absolute sense at this time in our history to set up a fully fledged office in Ghana as a base to service the region with products from all Zest companies.”
Zest’s Ghana office, established via an investment of R5,5-million, is headed up by a country manager, supported by seven permanent staff who manage a robust stockholding housed in warehousing in nearby Tema and provide technical support and training. The company’s South African headquarters has also recently appointed a dedicated African business development manager to focus solely on extending the “phenomenal growth” Meiring says Zest is currently enjoying in Africa.
In 2010 Brazilian electrical engineering, power and automation concern WEG Industries, which has a presence in more than 100 countries, took over a controlling interest of the Zest Group after a supply relationship spanning 30 years. At the time, WEG CEO Harry Schmelzer Jr. said “the combination of the Zest team and the direct involvement of WEG will form a strong recipe for continued growth and enable us to seize larger opportunities, expanding business throughout the African continent”. Meiring echoes this sentiment, adding that the acquisition has been a positive development for the Group, boosting its entrepreneurial strategy in Africa.
Zest is poised to establish a presence in Zimbabwe as soon as the political situation stabilises and is also currently exploring possibilities in Tanzania, as a possible base to provide support and stimulate development of the Group’s infrastructure in Central Africa.
“Mozambique is also on our radar,” Meiring says. “One of our companies, EnI, recently secured a multi-million US dollar contract which forms part of a massive project to upgrade and improve the shiploading facilities at the Port of Beira, Mozambique, that will see the port upgraded to cope with the intensifying mining activities within the Tete region of the country. The fast track port upgrade is being funded through a major investment by Brazilian mining company Vale, which has also awarded Zest and Shaw Controls, another of our companies, contracts at its Mozambiquan operations.
“Our relationship with WEG has provided us with Portuguese-speaking colleagues who have a clear understanding of our products and abilities and we have been able to tap into this support to stimulate business in both Mozambique and Angola,” Meiring says.
Zest’s African mobilisation strategy includes efforts to establish more solid relationships with Australian-based consulting companies, many of which are involved in mining projects on the continent. According to Meiring, this has already paid excellent dividends and helped Zest gain exposure for products across all its group companies.
“For the future, our efforts to gear ourselves up to service industrial developments in countries across Africa will continue to be guided by the presence of project hot-spots,” he says. “We are focusing on what we do best and making sure we stay ahead of the competition by listening to our customers and responding in the most appropriate way. Continuing to do things better is a philosophy entrenched in the culture of our business.”
Key African projects Zest has supplied into include the Bibiani, Tarkwa, Central Ashanti and Bogoso gold mines in Ghana, the Tabakota and Loulo gold mines in Mali and the Tongon gold mine in Cote D’Ivoire.