Africa: Expanded Engagement for Caterpillar – Boosting Sales & Alleviating Poverty

Washington, DC — A strong signal of growing business engagement with Africa by large U.S. corporations was the announcement last September by Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman of plans to invest over $1 billion in Africa over the next five years. Caterpillar is not a new-comer, having begun doing business on the continent in 1926. At last month’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington, DC, David Picard, Caterpillar’s regional manager for Africa and the Middle East, described some of the steps that have been taken since last year’s announcement. He also talked about the challenges and opportunities he sees, including Nigeria, where the company has operated since 1948. He was interviewed by AllAfrica’s Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga and Ladi Olorunyomi from Premium Times in Nigeria. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Let’s start by asking ‘Why Africa?’ Many don’t view the continent as an easy place to do business.

There are challenges. There are the things you see on the news that scare people away. But once people actually get there on the ground, they understand that it is a place that you can do business, that there’s an engaged group of people that want to work with American companies in particular.

What is the scope of Caterpillar’s African engagement?

We’re in 53 countries, and we’ve got 15,000 people on the ground through our independent dealer network. They’re independent but they act as our distribution arm. They do all our sales and local marketing. We sell equipment for major infrastructure projects like rail lines, airports, dams – earth moving of any kind. We have a resource industries division which is in mining and extractive industries. And we have an energy and transportation business that provides electric power generation, diesel, gas and renewable and marine propulsion systems and locomotives for rail.

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