Changing businesses, one technology at a time

Vonjy Rajakoba Vice President of Bosch West Africa.jpg

As part of its corporate responsibility, Bosch, a company with business branches in Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, Energy and Building Technology, has continued to actively promote talented young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, it was one of the initiators of Afrika kommt!, an initiative of German industry for junior managers from sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2008, Bosch has been part of a group of some 20 companies who offer scholarships to African junior executives so that they can spend a year in Germany completing a professional training program.

Currently, in order to support small businesses and bring them into the formal, mainstream economy, the company has started to deploy its Bosch Power Box (BPB).  Capital’s Eskedar Kifle Spoke to Vice President of Bosch West Africa, Vonjy Rajakoba about the BPB and how the initiative will help businesses to become more productive.

Capital: Tell us about your company and its presence in Africa.

Vonjy Rajakoba: Bosch has been present in Africa since 1906, currently in ten African countries: South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana and Tunisia. Depending on future business development, the company plans to increase this number in the next years.

All four Bosch business sectors – Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology – have operations on the continent. In 2015, Bosch generated sales of some 470 million Euros with more than 760 associates in Africa.

Capital: Your company provides different technological products, how do you tailor these for the African market?

Rajakoba: Africa is a very vibrant continent that is home to over 1.1 billion people. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in creating opportunities and uplifting both individuals and communities.

Robert Bosch Power Tools is actively working closely with all users, such as large construction companies and professional users in providing access to our tools and services across Africa, and also at the same time small scale artisans and semi-professionals, with the aim of supplying relevant tools and technology to foster development.

We have different sets of tools available for different types and sizes of production. The Bosch Power Box is a very good example of a tailored product suitable for the African market.

Capital: Tell us about the Bosch Power Box (BPB) project, who is it made for and what has been the experience so far in Ghana?

Rajakoba: Bosch Power Box is revolutionary initiative designed to create, up-skill and grow small businesses and bring them into the formal, mainstream economy. It is made with the intention for all artisans who work on producing items such as furniture, doors, partitions and the like, to transform their work efficiency.

It is a long-term project designed to foster entrepreneurship and ensure a smooth transition for small businesses from the informal to formal sectors. Each BPB has managers, technical staff and trainers, all of whom have received dedicated training from Bosch.

By providing BPB we create channels across different African markets, enabling our existing and potential users (Carpenters/ Electricians/ Metal Workers/plumbers/ other artisans) easily access our Power Tools, Accessories and Measuring tools.

Through the BPB, we will provide demonstrations and trainings to further enhance production/ service efficiency/ output for all artisans

The Box will provide various tools some of which are cordless tools. Cordless Bosch Power tools come with rechargeable batteries hence creating convenience and ease of use on the go. Just like the concept of the mobile phone, users will be able to recharge their Power Tools batteries and use them at multiple locations for several hours without having to bother about an additional power source.

Having launched the Bosch Power Box (BPB) in Sokoban Wood Village, Kumasi, Ghana in June 2016, we are looking to extend the concept to other markets across Africa including Ethiopia because the Bosch Power Box were very impactful.

Capital: The company has stated that people can either buy or rent the BPB, what are the price ranges for that and does that mean the BPB are given to certain institutions which then rent or sell it to people?

Rajakoba: As a Bottom of the pyramid solution, the BPB has to remain at cost effective concept to be relevant. As such we will not be selling the PB. The offering is the entire business model encompassing, training, demonstration, rental and sale of Bosch tools, micro financing empowerment and after sales service and repair. In the scale-up phase, we are looking for partners who are willing to enter into collaboration in a franchise model.

Therefore, There is an opportunity where artisans will now be able to buy, lease or rent the very latest power tools developed by the world’s market leader and to be used at Bosch Power Boxes. This will contribute a significant improvement in the quality of the products manufactured, while increasing efficiencies. This will assist artisans in growing their businesses.

Capital: Skills improvement in developing countries is one of your main focuses, how do you do that and can you give us examples of an area you have progressed in this regard?

Rajakoba: Bosch has a long and proud tradition of leadership in developing and supporting entrepreneurs. Bosch actively promotes talented young people in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, it was one of the initiators of an initiative of German industry for junior managers from sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2008, Bosch has been part of a group of some 20 companies who offer scholarships to African junior executives so that they can spend a year in Germany completing a professional training program. Since then more than 58 young African have been selected for the program. The goal of the program is to foster mutual exchange and learning between budding African executives and German companies.

In the spirit of its founder, Robert Bosch, the company is committed to encouraging and fostering entrepreneurship, innovation and contribution to society at large. Bosch has been a proud sponsor of the 2015 All Africa Business Leader Awards, hosted by CNBC Africa, recognising the continent’s outstanding leaders.

Capital: When will the BPB be available here in Ethiopia and how many people will it benefit?

Rajakoba: Ethiopia is one of our strategic destinations in Africa. It is the second largest population and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In addition to the different tools that are available in the market, the BPB is expected to be available in 2017 and it is expected to benefit many artisans and semi-professionals to transform their efficiency and production capacity.

Thanks to the good receptiveness that we have seen in Ghana, we have already deployed the Bosch Power Box in Ghana and Kenya. We are considering to scale up the concept in West and East Africa using a franchise model. We are engaging with young entrepreneurs ready to act as franchisees.

Capital: Do you have other projects in Ethiopia? Especially to support the manufacturing as well as agricultural sectors?

Rajakoba: The immediate sectors in which we will active with our power tools are infrastructure projects, construction industry but we also equip smaller scale carpenters, electricians, plumbers. We do not restrict ourselves to these sectors.

Capital: What future plans/ projects do you have in Ethiopia and Africa and how are you working to expand your presence in Ethiopia?

Rajakoba: We will mainly focus on strengthening our presence by investing in talents who serve our users and partners and in substantially increasing the number of service centers. We are already investing in Ethiopia and hopefully our users feel this. As far a decision to open a production this requires a careful evaluation which takes many parameters in consideration.