Heavy equipment goes hand-in-hand with both the mining and construction industry but it is the agricultural sector that demands machinery more extensively, to sustain the world’s food production. As one of the earliest industries to require the development of machinery, agriculture remains an essential and profitable component of the industry at large, the world-over. Across the African continent, agriculture provides livelihoods for many, most still with scattered small to medium sized enterprises that rely largely on the support of their associations to maximise their potential. Kanu Equipment has been well received within these markets with their readiness to provide this much-needed support for optimum output.
It didn’t take long for Kanu Equipment to get their core message across to their customers. Founded in 2012, the company has built a firm reputation as a reliable organisation that cares, living up to their ethos of service excellence. Kanu Equipment sells and rents heavy equipment and related aftermarket replacement parts across Africa’s agricultural, forestry, mining, earthmoving and construction sectors. They’ve taken their service offering to new levels by providing exceptional customer service and maintenance that was sorely lacking in many regions.
We spoke with Stephen Smithyman, company founder and CEO, about this after-sales care: “Our mission is to lower our customers’ cost of doing business. In part, that’s through the support that we provide. Our positioning statement is ‘Experience the Support”, as we have chosen to differentiate ourselves by being a service-with-support organization, adding value especially to our customers that operate in the most challenging environments.”
For many agricultural operations, work is seasonally-dependant, which means that there is a limited period where conditions are favourable for operation. Machine downtime can be harvest-threatening and needs to be avoided at all costs. Fortunately Kanu provides a wide range of replacement parts to minimise this risk. They also offer skilled maintenance support with round-the-clock standby to ensure the machines are back in action as soon as possible. This support system has won Kanu the loyalty of several world-class equipment brands, who are happy that their equipment is backed with the highest level of care. “We have longstanding, entrenched relationships with all of our OEM suppliers, but our flagship equipment brands and companies include Liebherr, Bell, Case and Terex-Finlay. We also work closely with Costex Tractor Parts for aftermarket replacement parts, and Black Cat Wear Parts as our ground engaging tools partner. These companies have all supported us tremendously since inception.”
Although Kanu is best known for its contribution to the construction sector, their agricultural clients are just as prolific and it was in fact in this sector that the company began: “Our first customer was in the sugar cane industry. We worked with Bell Equipment initially – they are one of the leading companies in terms of product range for this market sector. Most recently we’ve expanded our equipment offering to include Case Agriculture and we are now in the fortunate position to offer an array of complimentary aftermarket spares to ensure that farmers and Agribusinesses alike are fully supported”.
The company started out in Congo, followed by expansion into West Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Over an eight-month period, this was followed by a further push into Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone “We basically started out in the hardest countries to do business in, and then worked our way around.” The idea for the company came to Smithyman in Congo when he encountered his own difficulties in hiring equipment for a mining exploration project. “We were trying to find a bulldozer to rent. We couldn’t find one, and then when we eventually did, the rental rate was really high.”
“What inspired me to start the company was that I saw a real lack of support for people who are running machines. The business opportunity presented itself as I realised that if we could simply provide additional support and service to our customers, we would succeed. We cover a variety of sectors, and the territorial landscapes for each are dynamic. There can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackle any obstacles. Africa as a whole is in a growth phase, with threats to industry ranging from economic uncertainty to climate change to political instability. There is much competition but with our focus on service we have successfully navigated around these threats.”
One of the biggest obstacles Kanu has encountered, both in terms of business and human endangerment, was the Ebola virus. During an early period of expansion, Kanu found themselves immersed in a few territories that were struggling with this crisis, but rather than drawing back, they stood firm. Truly going above and beyond the call of duty, Kanu’s promise to its customers to provide support, no matter the conditions, prevailed. “We proved that we were prepared to support or customers even in the midst of turmoil as many of our staff put their lives at risk to remain steadfast”
Whilst their mining and construction projects see them operating across the African continent, West and East Africa is by far their strongest market in terms of agriculture. With holdings in sugar cane, cocoa, cotton and bananas, the Western territories boast crops that attract investment and maintain the demand for export. We have recently opened an office in San Pedro in Ivory Coast to support the growing Cocoa Business in that region.
We have also commenced operations in Tanzania with Bell and Liebherr as we have seen great agricultural opportunity there.
In an unpredictable market such as agriculture, it may seem unsurprising that Kanu are constantly expanding their reach. The ability to be on-the-ground with maintenance, supplies and support is key to what the company offers, and they are not afraid to take the necessary risks to uphold their promises.
“I am driven to set goals and reach them,” Smithyman shares. “I am up early every morning ready to embrace new challenges. I don’t see a challenge as a threat, I see it as an opportunity to grow. Our staff are motivated and inspired to work for a company that is determined to make a positive impact on the continent’s development”.
It is this passion that has been the driving force behind Kanu Equipment’s achievements this far, and will continue to carry them forward through whatever may come next. “Attitude is everything”, says Stephen, “With the right attitude, we have every reason to continue to soar”.
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