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By Rob Mukahlera, Caterpillar Government Affairs Manager
Storytelling is such a popular and common pastime across the world, more so in Africa. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I always looked forward to those family nights when we would huddle around in our living room with my siblings and listen to my parents narrate all sorts of fascinating stories, especially about our history and who we were as a people. Those fond memories have stayed with me to this day. In my line of work doing government affairs, I learned early on the importance of storytelling when engaging a wide range of external stakeholders, especially government officials. Connecting the dots for them and presenting “The Caterpillar Story,” as my former boss put it, is key to advancing our company’s policy agenda and operational priorities.
I just recently relocated to Johannesburg, South Africa after two years working in Caterpillar's Washington, DC office. When I joined Caterpillar, my goal was to be a part of the company's growth in Africa, and it’s a tremendous opportunity being the first Global Government and Corporate Affairs employee based on the continent. In this role, I’ll be leading our external stakeholder engagement, working closely with our African dealers and Caterpillar commercial teams, and forging new relationships with African government officials in support of key initiatives across the region.
Recently, I had the great privilege and honor to tell the Caterpillar story – representing the company on a trade mission to Angola and Namibia – two countries in Southern Africa. Other American companies participating in the trade mission included GE, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Acrow.
Southern Africa is an important region for Caterpillar’s mining business. It is home to some of the world’s largest diamond-producing countries – Botswana, South Africa, Angola and Namibia. There’s a fair chance the diamonds you see displayed in jewelry stores originated from this part of the world, extracted from the earth using Cat products.
One of the recurring themes during the high-level government meetings was the critical and urgent need for investments in capacity building and skills development. This is one area where Caterpillar can significantly add value to the national development plans of many African countries. Caterpillar is already leading the way in this regard through the Caterpillar Foundation’s focus and investments in education and skills training. More recently, Caterpillar launched Technicians for Africa, a foundational technical training program to develop a pipeline of local service technicians. The program, currently running in Nigeria, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has already been a success, with approximately 3,000 registered users since its launch. The program will be expanded to many more African countries in the near future.
During the Namibia leg, we were hosted by the President of the country at the state house. It was a truly special occasion being able to share with him the Caterpillar story in his country. He was familiar with our machines and the industries we support, and he urged us to continue investing in the country. The President recently launched the country’s new flagship national development plan, which has infrastructure development as a key pillar. Caterpillar and Barloworld Namibia, the territory dealer, are well positioned to support and capture the construction and power opportunities once the initiative takes off in earnest, and truly makes progress possible across that country.
In conclusion, it is only appropriate to recognize and acknowledge the efforts of the Caterpillar product and commercial teams who support the company’s operations in the region.
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