Sustainability Through ‘Ecomagination’

Nabil Habayeb, GE’s President & CEO for the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey


How did GE evolve in the MENAT region over the years?

The MENAT region has evolved significantly in the past decade. Earlier, the market was all about products – be it an advanced turbine or new healthcare equipment. Our role was chiefly as technology providers through our advanced solutions. This has changed dramatically.


Today, the region – both governments and the private sector partners – look for solutions that are comprehensive and add tangible value for the economy. They seek partnerships that will help them achieve their goals of sustainability, efficiency, localization, and human capital development. We are also seeing another shift – from industrial solutions to the digital industrial applications that not only meet the overarching goals but also contribute to enhanced productivity and efficiency across the supply chain.


We have just marked this transformation by evolving as a digital industrial company. Our goal is to be among the Top 10 software companies globally by 2020. This has great significance for the MENAT region, where we’ve had a strong operational presence for over 80 years.


Our strategy has been to support the region in driving its infrastructure development, aligning our business model to promote a culture of localized innovation, and building human capital through the creation of new jobs for Nationals and promoting training & development.


How did the decline in oil prices affect your business?

Oil price volatility is cyclical and we have witnessed several such cycles during the past eight decades of our operations in the region. What we have done is to respond positively and creatively to the situation because we understand our partners’ requirements.


The decline in oil prices, which potentially limits new investments in the energy sector, is an opportunity for our partners to optimize their assets to achieve higher levels of productivity and efficiency. For example, the aviation sector benefits from increased operational efficiency with the decline in jet fuel costs. We are supporting our partners in optimizing their operations further in this regard.


Furthermore, declining oil prices have also benefited emerging markets in the region that depend on oil imports. This enables the governments to focus more on infrastructure spending. GE has recorded strong business partnerships on strategic infrastructure projects in Egypt and Pakistan among other nations in the region.


What does the region represent to you in terms of investments? 

Over the past 80 years, we have invested significantly in the region through our localization initiatives including offices in all key markets, the setting up of technology centres, and investing in promoting innovation and local talent development.


With more than a $1 billion worth of investments in Saudi Arabia, how would you assess the Saudi market at the moment? 

Saudi Arabia is one of our strong markets in the region, where we have in fact accomplished the US$1 billion investment that was announced in 2012. Today, we have a 2,000-strong workforce in the Kingdom with 50% staff in highly skilled engineering and technology roles and a Saudization rate of 70%.


We have built a supplier base of over 300 locally of which 150 are Saudi SMEs, exports from our GE Manufacturing Technology Center goes to over 70 customers in almost 40 countries across Middle East, Europe, Africa, as well as the US – thus adding to the Kingdom’s economic competitiveness.


We have trained over 6,000 Saudi professionals in leadership, clinical, and engineering programs in healthcare and energy sectors within Saudi and globally, as well as delivered tailored leadership experiences such as the Saudi Women Leadership Summit.


We see tremendous opportunity in the Kingdom to promote the operational efficiency of our partners. We are driving this through our Industrial Internet technologies.


These initiatives are aligned with the strategic development priorities of the Kingdom. We have announced a new ‘Saudi 2020 Sustainability’ Program to achieve outcomes such as doubling GE’s workforce in the Kingdom from 2,000 to 4,000 by 2020, and doubling our Saudi supplier base from 150 to 300 to build a strong supply chain that supports GE’s local manufacturing facilities. We are also doubling training in energy, healthcare and localized research for over 10,000 Saudi professionals through local and global programs. Our goal is to achieve $100 million in value of exports of products and services from GE to different parts of the world including the US and Europe.


As part of this, the Saudi GE Innovation Center, located in Dhahran Techno Valley, has joined the family of GE’s select Global Research Centers. It is the first-of-its-kind in the region with the principal goal of helping meet the Kingdom’s growing demand for power through highly optimized operations across the energy supply chain. We will also substantially increase our localization plans across the energy value chain by 2020.  We will support manufacturing and exports in Saudi Arabia through manufacturing and assembly of materials and components for heavy duty gas turbines and Oil & Gas equipment. Our heavy-duty 9HA gas turbines, the world’s largest and most efficient that lead the industry will be rolled out next year from the GE Manufacturing Technology Center in Dammam.


How is the group contributing to the development of the UAE in particular?

The UAE is our regional headquarters and we have offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Our growth strategies for the country are clearly aligned with the Vision 2021 of the country to be among the best nations in the world.


In this, as the government emphasizes today, we also place the highest focus on promoting a culture of localized innovation. For example, we opened the Middle East Aviation Technology Center in Dubai to co-create software solutions with the region’s airlines. This complements our strong partnerships with UAE’s aviation companies – including Emirates, Etihad Airways, flydubai, and Air Arabia.


Over the past decades, we have also built significant partnerships in energy, power, water, healthcare, and lighting in the UAE. The opening of the GE Ecomagination Innovation Center in Masdar City is a great example of our commitment to working towards the country’s sustainability goals. Further, we are working with Masdar to pilot and commercialize sustainable energy-neutral advanced wastewater treatment solutions.


We also support the industrial sector, and we are a trusted partner of Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), one of the world’s top aluminium producers. This CSA builds on the existing partnership of GE with both Emirates Aluminium (EMAL) and Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL), which together have an annual production capacity that represents nearly 50 % of the total primary aluminium produced in the GCC region.


Driving our Industrial Internet technologies for the energy sector, we have opened the Monitoring & Diagnostic Center in Jebel Ali. We are expanding our water center for excellence in Jebel Ali, and already have one of the largest distribution hubs for our lighting business.


How does GE keep pace with innovation through its multiple divisions?

Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at GE; it is our organizational DNA. Our transformation as a digital industrial company, led by our Industrial Internet technologies, is a prime driver of organization-wide innovation. Today, we are creating a new innovation ecosystem through our technology centers that serve as innovation incubators.


In addition to the GE Ecomagination Innovation Center, GE is also working with key partners in promoting an innovation-friendly environment. In fact, the Center features the UAE’s first GE Garages workshop, a space where workshops are held in a fully equipped lab, to show how the future of manufacturing is changing the world.

In addition to the new technology centers mentioned earlier, we have joined hands with Masdar Institute of Science & Technology's Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium to develop technologies and approaches to producing ‘sustainable bioenergy’ for next-generation fuels in the aviation industry.


What are the steps that GE is taking for a more sustainable future?

Our sustainability narrative is defined by ‘ecomagination’, GE’s growth strategy to enhance resource productivity and reduce environmental impact at a global scale through commercial solutions for our customers and through our own operations.


As a part of this strategy, we are investing in cleaner technology and business innovation, developing solutions to enable economic growth while avoiding emissions and reducing water consumption. We are committing to reduce the environmental impact in our own operations, and developing strategic partnerships to solve some of the toughest environmental challenges at scale to create a cleaner, faster, smarter tomorrow.


Today, ‘ecomagination’ is more than just a technology portfolio; it’s the way we do business. By the end of 2014, we generated more than $200 billion in revenue and reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 31% compared to our 2004 baseline, and water use by 42% as compared to the 2006 baseline.


Takreem has recently awarded you for Excellence in Corporate Leadership; can you tell us about your strategy in doing business? 

Specifically, in relation to corporate leadership, my strategic approach is to promote a culture of localization by investing in the youth, and to meet the real requirements of the people. With over 200 million Arab youth, there is tremendous potential in the region to achieve transformational growth led by a youthful, creative, and innovative workforce.


Our goal is to support our partners in meeting their needs – be it enhancing productivity and efficiency – and to address the challenges of the communities – by delivering clean water, reliable electricity, and better healthcare.


At GE, we hire the best talent, enable them to achieve their fullest potential, and support them in furthering their career. That is why today GE is one of most preferred organizations to work for in the region.


What are the CSR initiatives that GE has recently launched/is involved in?

GE is a responsible corporate citizen, and for more than a century, volunteerism has been a vibrant part of our culture, as both an individual employee activity and as an organizational effort. We co-ordinate our resources—including products, matching gifts, grants and people—to create responses tailored to local and individual challenges. Today, globally, our employees volunteer more than 1 million hours of community service every year. In the MENAT region, there are GE Volunteers councils in Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE.


Further, as part of our commitment to promote female talent, we have Women’s Network hubs in Algeria, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. They follow the global Women’s Network vision of accelerating the advancement of women at GE through cultivating their leadership skills, business practices, contacts, and opportunities.


Some of the GE Volunteer activities include taking part in desert clean-ups, promoting diabetes awareness, promoting art appreciation, driving a culture of safety in Qatar, and fighting breast cancer through concerted activities across the region.


Most recently, we took our pledge to nurturing innovation champions with GEMS Education through a five-session, four-week, robot-building program for girls aged 9-11, teaching them about advanced manufacturing and coding.


What are your plans for 2016 and where do you see scope for growth in the region?

2016 will be led by four key growth pillars: Productivity, Predictivity, Efficiency and Innovation. In achieving this, our Industrial Internet technologies will be a central driving force.


From aviation to energy to healthcare to transportation, our Industrial Internet helps customers on a journey to get connected by enabling smarter operators with visibility into operations anytime, anywhere. It helps them initiate immediate action and understand performance at every level. Also, it assists them in getting insights by pre-empting issues through predictive maintenance to avoid problems before they happen; and getting optimized by improving maintenance operations and asset utilization for less downtime, increased production, and lower risk.


Our Monitoring & Diagnostics Centers in Saudi Arabia and UAE will provide unprecedented insights in identifying any potential concerns with the operations of its turbines, thus assuring seamless operations and asset optimization.


We will work to take our Industrial Internet technologies to the next level to support our partners. We see tremendous growth opportunity across the region, in all markets, in sectors including energy, healthcare, transport, water, aviation, and lighting.


I am also looking forward to some powerful digital innovations from the region. We are reaching out to the developers to innovate software solutions through our dedicated environment for industrial developers called


We estimate that our Industrial Internet and software solutions offer a potential 20% increase in performance. These solutions could help unlock $465 billion in economic value annually for industry across the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, and Pakistan. The story of our future has only begun.