Nationwide Equipment Pioneering the U.S. Promise, Driving African Developmental Potential
While sensational accounts of African wholesale integration from the BRIC power-players continue to make global headlines, the United States and Africa have seemingly lagged behind. The U.S.-Africa Summit of 2014 in Washington D.C. sought to change that outlook and shed light on a greater opportunity.
As President Obama’s management of U.S. foreign policy draws to a close, it is inspiring to showcase ambassadors of the Summit’s vision; those that have been operating on the continent of Africa, some from long before the Summit’s inception, drawing vision from the unbridled potential for engagement and partnership and choosing to ensure that the American promise to Africa is not only kept but is both commercially and geopolitically competitive.
One such enterprise, Nationwide Equipment, with services including the rental and sale of reconditioned earthmoving and road-building machinery, has been operating in Africa for decades, servicing longstanding companies, public governments and entrepreneurial customers alike.
A recent KPMG Global Construction Survey found that over 70 leaders in the construction and engineering industry are planning to move into Africa. Nationwide President Ed Kostenski acutely understands the intricacies involved. He has partnered efficiently with the private and public sectors in strategically diverse markets in the ECOWAS and SADC communities alike.
Ed’s company, an enterprise started at his kitchen table in Jacksonville, Florida in 1983 and has earned two Presidential Awards for exemplary service from two U.S. Presidents, today speaks to the International Policy Digest on how infrastructural development and in particular, his unique brand, look to, “…flourish the entrepreneurial spirit,” as former President George W. Bush has stated. This has been accomplished by collaborating with Africa’s potential despite the varying challenges involved and fulfilling the United States commitment to partnership.
What was the motivation to both start your own business venture and export it to Africa?
I started Nationwide Equipment at age 20 with an entrepreneurial mindset and vision to partner with African enterprises. Simply put, I had a competitive, proven service model and Africa had needs and incentivizing projections for my offering to integrate.
I saw through the sensationalism of bureaucracy stifling foreign investment and have proudly partnered with like-minded individuals and government players in countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, the Congo and beyond; those abundant with natural resources with the ‘know-how’ but sometimes not necessarily the ‘know-who’ to leverage them to the fullest, with international support.
Today, we continue to work in Africa responsibly and transparently, in sectors such as construction, road-building, oil and gas, resource extraction and alternative energy, to name but a few, where Nationwide has reach and expertise.
In doing so, we have raised over $1 billion for private funding towards construction projects and equipment. I’m particularly proud of this fact, both as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) exercise and having personally not held a finance degree.
Where do you envision Nationwide Equipment expanding on the continent?
Every country in Africa has its own flair, its own uniqueness to contribute to global markets. We have thus far focused our energies on countries with proven agricultural bases and potential for growth.
Especially relevant given present fluctuations in the oil economy amidst commodity crisis, diversification through agribusiness will allow emerging market governments to hold the tiller and capitalize on the abundance of arable land, human capital and tech innovation currently available to them.
I think it’s important to note, however, that Africa’s leading economies are still enjoying a surge in the construction of new hotels, as an example, despite the slowdown in growth due to what is a global commodity slump. This year alone, over 400 hotels should be built across the continent.
Accordingly, I make it a point to attend as many industry-applicable conferences in these marketplaces, be their themes construction-oriented or broadly, infrastructure development and financing, to seek out new opportunities in order to expand our customer base, region on region.
What are some of the challenges in doing business on the continent to date? Does Nationwide often find itself competing with private sector entities from the Asian ‘Tiger’ markets in Africa, for example?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ model or ‘great equalizer’ in doing business on the continent. Effective corporate brokerage when working with public entities will always be challenging and will always include a healthy degree of competition.
Nonetheless, Americans are a nation driven by competition and there is no greater opportunity to offer the best value and the most professional, accountable service nor playing field to promote it than the present-day African marketplace.
I commend countries that uphold corporate rule of law and deter monopoly and collusion to ensure my competitors and I ‘race to the top’ of our service models, as opposed to undercutting to the bottom and to the detriment of our industry and to the regions wherein we aim to operate.
What is your vision for Nationwide Equipment five years from now?
I foresee lots of growth in Africa and concurrently, our practice, adapting to meet the expanding needs of the budding content and its ever-revolutionizing spirit of entrepreneurism.
I look forward to working with like-minded professionals in business and public works to play a role in sustainable development as an ambassador of the U.S. enterprise.
I believe it’s in our hands, as private-sector entrepreneurial organizations, to shape the corporate environment in which we do business and ensure it is one conducive for sustainable development and importantly, mutual benefit.
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