Renewable energy sector in MENA set to attract $35 billion of investment a year by 2020

Author: Heba Hashem | Date: 15 Jun 2016

Large-scale projects mean employers are hiring for a wide range of positions and investing in training

The Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) renewable energy industry is at a turning point, with the International Renewable Energy Agency reporting that the region is set to attract $35 billion worth of renewable energy investments every year by 2020.

As the energy transition accelerates, global players who are eyeing a share of this market are expected to staff their organisations with local supervisors, engineers and technicians. But this represents a serious challenge, given the development of the industry in the region.

While many organisations started off by hiring from overseas, there is increasing pressure to recruit locally given the emphasis governments have placed on job creation for the local population.

With that in mind, several multinational employers have dedicated financial resources to developing their own human resource capacity. Siemens for instance is on a mission to train hundreds of locals for placements in their new factories.

“We’re working on large-scale projects and these are driving localisation. Most of the training related to our operations will be conducted by Siemens at its training centres worldwide,” says Emad Ghaly, senior executive vice president of wind and renewables at Siemens Egypt.

“Currently we’re in the process of designing and building the factories, then we plan to source the engineers and technicians,” says Ghaly. “We go to universities and ask them for graduates and we also look throughout the region. Although most will be local, we scout all over the place for junior positions and middle management,” he explains.

In the UAE, SMA Solar holds technical training seminars and webinars for installers, plant designers and even sales managers through its solar academy.

This is crucial for the German inverter manufacturer, as it has supplied many solar plants in the region and looking to supply new projects.

However, when it comes to leadership positions, the majority of international companies are choosing to transfer executives from their headquarters to head their Middle East subsidiaries.

French energy company Engie for example, which is involved in renewable projects throughout the region, announced this month it was appointing Sébastien Arbola as CEO of their Middle East, South and Central Asia and Turkey business unit. Arbola has been working with the group since 2006, most recently as chief financial officer and senior vice president.

Ghaly points out that this process ensures proper transfer of knowledge to a company’s local branch. “Maybe a couple of executives will come from our headquarters or other organisations where they have built experience in constructing and operating wind power plants and factories,” says Ghaly. “Normally they stay for a few years, transfer the know-how to local middle management and then leave. This is our normal business model.”