MSA Africa is celebrating its 75th anniversary as the African leader in the development, manufacture and supply of sophisticated products that protect people's health and safety.

In honour of this achievement, the company recently hosted a media day at its new head office to reflect on its past achievements, while highlighting new innovations.

From humble beginnings in February 1940 as a small company specialising in the sale of electric cap lamps to South African mining operations, MSA Africa is today recognised as the continent’s leading health and safety equipment supplier in terms product quality and sales volumes. MSA Africa currently boasts a workforce of more than 100 administrative and manufacturing employees at its Johannesburg-based headquarters, with a geographical footprint that spans 45 countries in Africa.

MSA Africa is the second-oldest MSA division. The USA head office celebrated its 100th anniversary last year in recognition of the company founder John T Ryan working closely with world-renowned inventor Thomas Edison to create the electric cap lamp as a replacement for the dangerous open flame lamp. Over the next 25 years, mine explosions would be dramatically reduced by 75 per cent.

MSA Africa MD, Colin Oliver
MSA Africa MD, Colin Oliver

MSA Africa MD Colin Oliver notes that the company has proactively changed with the times, while remaining committed to the original MSA safety philosophy that is over a century old. “Safety can always be improved, no matter how many advancements are made. MSA Africa is well aware of this, and we continue our commitment to product innovation through dedicated research and development, as well as regular interactive feedback sessions with our client base.”

Oliver believes that this approach to business has led to MSA Africa being recognised as a high-quality reputable brand. “We stand by our product and service, no matter what. Our products are life saving devices and as such we simply cannot compromise on quality, brand or integrity. This has led to the company enjoying an unrivalled degree of customer loyalty,” he continues.

Despite the measurable success over the years, Oliver admits that the company has faced numerous challenges. He points out that the international economic downturn and continued pressure on global commodity prices have been particularly difficult to overcome.

Oliver says: “Businesses in the mining and oil and gas sectors have been significantly impacted by the commodity pricing cycle. Despite this, MSA Africa continues to achieve a year-on-year improvement in business levels through strong product brand, marketing and the ongoing dedication of our staff.”

According to Oliver, the commodity pricing cycle is still at a low point. “Mining operations will continue to drive cost optimisation and control. However, maintenance of existing infrastructure needs to continue to ensure that operations are able to take up the upswing of the commodity cycle when it comes. As a result, MSA Africa will continue to experience good business in mining and will be ready to benefit from increased mining activity when the commodity pricing cycle improves.”

Oliver adds that lower-quality, counterfeit imports are another concern. “A large percentage of these products have questionable quality certifications, and lure operations with limited budgets in with marginal pricing. The long-term consequences can be catastrophic, as these companies are only interested in quick sales and not long-term health and safety of workers.”

MSA Africa provides its end-users with certification on all products through its extensive distribution network across Africa. “Our end-users are guaranteed to receive the highest-quality, certified and legitimate MSA products, which are supported by world class service and support,” adds Oliver.

A positive future outlook for MSA Africa

As safety regulations become more stringent in Africa, Oliver anticipates continued success for MSA Africa. “Safety remains paramount in all industries, and I expect our business to further benefit from the improving business cycle as commodity prices increase and oil prices rise. I am confident of maintaining a strong hold on established regions such as South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, while penetrating burgeoning new markets such as Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania,” he concludes.

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