US mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, its independent dealers and the Caterpillar Foundation are to invest $1-billion in business, education and training across Africa over the next five years, chairperson and CEO Doug Oberhelman announced at the US-Africa Business Forum, in New York, last month.

The news confirms Caterpillar’s long-term commitment to Africa and is intended to significantly improve its customer service capabilities on the continent, according to the company.

This will include enhanced parts distribution capacity, new high-tech certified rebuild centres, new dealer branch locations, the expansion of Caterpillar’s Technicians for Africa online skills development programme, as well as financial investment to support programmes that lift people out of poverty.

Technicians for Africa is a free, online learning platform for Africans seeking to develop the technical skills needed to pursue a career as an equipment technician.

The investment will further increase Caterpillar’s significant footprint in the growing African market, while boosting infrastructure development and the skills training capabilities necessary for African countries to continue to improve their global competitiveness.

“For 90 years, Caterpillar machines have helped build critical infrastructure projects across Africa. Today, we bring not only construction machinery to the continent but also traditional and renewable-power-generation solutions, diesel-electric locomotives, marine engines and mining equipment,” Oberhelman noted at the forum.

He added that the announcement confirmed Caterpillar’s plans to make a long-term investment to help build, develop and empower communities, and serve as an education and training partner to broaden and strengthen local workforce talent and expertise.

Since 2010, Caterpillar has invested about $50-million to support projects in Africa that improve the lives of those living in poverty, specifically girls and women, through training, policy work and entrepreneurship. These investments benefit Africans by providing them with access to education, energy, microfinance, clean water and sanitation.

Building on these investments, the Caterpillar Foundation is committing an additional $15-million by the year 2020 to organisations working to improve lives across Africa.

Barloworld Equipment (BWE) – the CAT dealer for Southern Africa – was delighted with the news of the investment, Barloworld Equipment Southern Africa CEO Emmy Leeka said in a press statement earlier this month.

“It is going to give a great boost to our training and development capabilities, which, in turn, will benefit our valued customers. It will also enable the opening of new BWE locations and dealerships in Southern Africa and increase infrastructure development,” she pointed out.

Leeka also welcomed the news that Caterpillar will be making further investments in social upliftment programmes on the continent and will be expanding its Technicians for Africa programme.

“We are heavily involved in this programme in Mozambique and are planning to roll it out in South Africa, Zambia and Angola. For example, BWE has set up a container computer lab in Tete, Mozambique, to provide computer and Internet access to those wanting to gain skills through the Technicians for Africa programme,” she concluded.

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