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ACTOM turns 120 and remains upbeat about African prospects and opportunities

ACTOM, a leading electro-mechanical manufacturing company in Africa, recently celebrated its 120th anniversary with a ceremony held at the Royal Johannesburg Golf Club, which was attended by Dr Robert Nkuna (Director General in The Presidency) and several other dignitaries.

Since its inception in 1903, ACTOM has become a major supplier of electrical equipment and services to a wide range of industries, including energy, mining, and utilities. The company is a major contender in the renewable energy sector and has played a pivotal role in advancing the development of solar and wind power projects in South Africa.

“This event was a celebration of a legacy company that is over a century old, and the fact that we have managed to navigate multiple industrial revolutions, technology changes, a pandemic, economic cycles, and survive by way of reinventing the company, is testimony to our strength. This event aimed to celebrate what we’ve achieved, as well as the people who have been involved in helping us reach this achievement,” Mervyn Naidoo, Group Chief Executive Officer at ACTOM.

“ACTOM has maintained its leadership position in the electro-mechanical sector for 120 years due to its ability to adapt to the ever-changing market. For example, when Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers (REIPPs) were introduced, we started supplying the balance of plants for those projects, as well as equipment monitoring, specifically for the renewable energy market,” says Mamiki Matlawa, Business Development Executive at ACTOM.

“We’ve been able to adapt by building an end-to-end company in terms of electro-mechanical equipment where we manufacture, repair, and replace – meeting our customers’ full spectrum of needs.”

Shifting dynamics

Matlawa highlights that ACTOM’s 120th anniversary coincides with a period of significant global shifts. South Africa’s recent hosting of the BRICS summit and the impending implementation of the Africa Free Trade Agreement underscore this transformative moment in history.

“This allows African companies to try and make their mark in the current global economy, which is an exciting time for us having now reached 120 years in operation. I think that with the current dynamics at play, we are likely to reach another 120 years,” she says.

Matlawa explains that ACTOM’s plans in terms of sustainability and innovation include its recently opened factory in Kenya, which is being positioned as the company’s manufacturing hub in East Africa – a region with a population of more than 300 million.

“If our base in Nairobi allows us to tap into that market, we will be looking at similar plans for West Africa. Generally, we will continue to adapt our products to take advantage of situations as they arise,” she explains.

While ACTOM is looking to expand its operations across the African region, the company also remains committed to driving empowerment and inclusivity at home. The company has been working with high schools around Ekurhuleni to support learners from Grade 8 and higher with their maths and science curriculum.

More can be done

Matlawa believes that there is an opportunity for government to do more in terms of supporting the manufacturing sector, especially from a localisation perspective, which would be a boost for manufacturers of local products and equipment. It is crucial that we use local infrastructure spend and demand as a means of revitalising manufacturing in South Africa and create desperately needed jobs, which will ultimately trigger GDP growth.

She adds that ACTOM has plans to grow in the renewable energy space where there are opportunities for the company to venture into partnerships with engineering, procurement, and construction firms, or to become the preferred original equipment manufacturer for the energy projects.

“ACTOM is ready to engage in the changing world and we are specifically awaiting the final implementation of the Africa Free Trade Agreement. We are excited about this and our investment in Kenya is pre-empting this move,” says Matlawa.

She says that as ACTOM celebrates 120 years, the company remains highly appreciative of its employees, whose commitment to the company, to quality products, and to continuous supply of equipment throughout the continent is enabling the company to remain a leader in the space.

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