Howden Africa is resolutely focused on Company growth, a strategy that has been in place since 2013, driving it to continued success in the industry
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Arron Rampling
When Africa Outlook last spoke to Howden Africa in 2015, the Company was settling into its stride when it came to its focus on branching out of South Africa and into the wider continent; a strategy that had started in earnest in 2013.
Since that point the Company objective has remained largely focused on this growth – for a number of reasons – predominantly due to the fact that Africa continues to offer opportunities for sustainable sales growth.
“We are aware of several infrastructure development projects that are currently ongoing in many of the markets that we are active in,” explains Kudzai Nyangoni, Managing Director of James Howden Holdings, a Howden Africa business unit with a strong focus on the African continent. “These include mining, mineral processing and industrial refrigeration, among others, which have allowed us to get quite the customer base due to our wide product offering.”
In the past, the Company’s focus has been largely confined to South Africa. However, through supporting the expansion efforts of some of its home-base customers, Howden has been able to branch out further into Africa.
“We decided to work with these existing customers – predominantly South African mining companies with assets in Southern, East and West Africa – and carry out a much larger marketing push for our products on the whole,” adds Nyangoni. “Our expansion has supported the objective we laid out in 2015 and is still our current focus.”
Howden has subsequently experienced impressive sales growth in markets other than South Africa over the past three years, consistently seeing an increase in business operations of approximately 20 percent, an incredibly impressive number considering the volatile market the Company works in.
The Company’s growth of 20 percent year on year has enabled it to invest more time and money into new business and developing its operations in Africa.
“Previously we had a traditional approach to market development. However, as the expansion gained momentum we chose a ‘Country Champion’ for each of our target countries,” continues Nyangoni. “These individuals are responsible for checking in on each of the developments we are involved in, while also keeping abreast of new potential opportunities.”
This has had a huge impact on the Company’s Africa footprint, particularly in the past couple of years where Howden’s presence in Southern Africa and forays into West Africa have been particularly well received.
Nyangoni describes: “We are also scanning opportunities in East Africa. Our approach is to work with agents that can assist us in quantifying the available opportunities, understanding customer requirements and the ways in which we can follow through on those.”
It is these activities that have lead Howden to become market leaders in the markets the Company is active in, such as mine ventilation and cooling, pollution control and waste management, and will continue to keep it in the top spot in its selected markets.
When it comes to the technology upgrades needed to keep up with the Company’s growth, being part of a global company proves to be particularly helpful. The Company benefits from technology and business processes improvements sourced from the Global Howden Group, providing a platform from which world-class products, service and support can be offered from an African base.
“When it comes to our technological upgrades, we use our African engineering expertise in conjunction with the Global Howden knowledge base to take these projects through a value-added process,” affirms Nyangoni. “A prime example of this would be that we wouldn’t simply supply a fan to a mine, instead we supply a complete ventilation system and therefore we will carry out the engineering, implementation and controls and installation, enabling us to make life incredibly simple for our customer.”
Of course an issue that many companies are facing is the fact that customer requirements are evolving all the time and therefore Howden has to evolve with its customers.
“In order to aid us in keeping up to date with our customers and their requirements, we often send our engineers overseas, where they can spend time with our sister companies and are subsequently able to understand the best possible processes,” explains Nyangoni. “They are then able to bring this knowledge back in order to implement locally and enhance the way that we carry out our business.”
Howden Africa itself has world-leading expertise in the ice plant technology necessary to cool deep-level mines cost effectively, which affords the Company a competitive advantage as a lot of mining companies both globally and in Africa are investing time and money in deep mines. The Company is focusing on projects in the DRC, Mali, Tanzania and Zambia, all of which are keeping it extremely busy.
Nyangoni affirms: “We are incredibly lucky to be working in Africa, a continent that is endowed with exceptional natural resources, a lot of which are located underground. With commodity prices having stabilised, and in some instances showing some buoyancy, we are benefitting from more sustained demand from resources companies.”
Goals for further growth
With such consistent success in the growth of the Company, particularly the use of established agents within its target countries, Howden is going from strength to strength in an industry in which it is a leading player.
“In the past we have only worked directly in countries and engaged with customers in that manner,” adds Nyangoni. “However, we have found that our expansion has encouraged us to be more flexible as a company operating in these markets; we have found that through the appointment of appropriate agents we can access local knowledge and skills which add value to our customers.
“This way of thinking is something that many African governments are striving for,” continues Nyangoni. “They want their local companies to develop through knowledge transfer from international companies, enabling them to grow their own capabilities and foster employment and skills development within their countries. Howden supports this approach through its appointment of agents, as we are able to underpin African growth and development while also benefitting from the access to local knowledge and experience.”
Howden Africa will begin establishing agents in its target countries, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Namibia and Angola, which is its continued plan for the remainder of 2017, while also expanding its product offering.
“We are working to expand in other sectors such as industrial refrigeration and process industries,” Nyangoni adds. “We are well established within the mining community, however, in order to increase our reputation and standing in other industries we have recently been participating in industrial exhibitions in selected countries. These enable us to showcase our capabilities over a complete range and services.”
One area which is receiving priority is the oil & gas sector in Nigeria and Angola – where Howden has already started the installation of new equipment.
“Although there is growing competition within our industry and in Africa as a whole, we are very excited to be right at the centre of it; with the world seeing Africa as one big market place, we are perfectly placed at this time,” concludes Nyangoni. “Looking forward, we will continue to demonstrate our presence and capabilities in the industry by working very closely with our international partners to provide OEM and aftermarket solutions to our customers.”