Africa is the continent of the future.
According to the UN, by 2050, 25% of the world’s population will live on the continent. As I look across the continent, I can see the enormous energy being placed into creating future prosperity for Africans everywhere – north, south, east, and west.
In Egypt, extensive solar energy projects are being constructed to power the nation’s energy grid. In South Africa, ground-breaking start-ups are innovating how to produce and grow food. In Kenya, innovative EdTechs are re-inventing how to teach children – and raising significant VC funding while doing so. And, in Nigeria, over 200 fintechs are creating new ways for consumers across the country – and the continent – to organise their finances, according to McKinsey.
Northern Ireland may not have the glorious plains of the Masai Mara or the incredible heights of Table Mountain. We aren’t home to the world’s longest river, as can be found in the Nile, or one of its largest deltas, as can be found in Nigeria.
But what Northern Ireland does share with Africa is clear – innovation that benefits our people and transforms our economies for the better. The two million population country is home to one of the world’s most successful clusters of engineering companies that develop state-of-the-art equipment and machinery for export globally, with applications across different sectors including construction, mining, quarrying, demolition, ports, agriculture and recycling.
World leading manufacturers
Over the years, companies from Northern Ireland have emerged as leaders in manufacturing of waste recycling equipment, especially in the construction & demolition (C&D) waste sector, as well as farm equipment manufacturing and agritech that incorporates world-leading food security and traceability expertise.
For example, Mallaghan, one of the fastest-growing Airport Ground Support Equipment manufacturers worldwide, has been successful in Africa supplying to international airports and is involved in a number of projects in various countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia and The Gambia. Mallaghan has local representation in West Africa and they continue to engage with contacts in Africa to bring products and solutions to the aviation sector.
Machinery manufactured in Northern Ireland is sold to customers in over 100 countries with applications as diverse as iron ore mining in India, road construction in Peru, diamond exploration in South Africa and sand washing in the Arabian Gulf. Those are home-grown firms like the materials handling company, CDE Global.
Providing industry-leading wet processing equipment, CDE Global empower customers to transform waste into valuable resources through innovative co-creation, laying the foundations for the circular economy. Their work spans across the continent with projects delivered in South Africa, Tanzania, Algeria and Tunisia.
Fast-growing tech hub
Over recent years, Northern Ireland has carved out a niche for itself as a fast-growing and vibrant technology hub and now enjoys an international reputation as a region of expertise and knowledge in tech development. Technology companies from Northern Ireland have produced a range of global success stories across a diversity of industries, spanning enterprise software, sports tech, IT Services and govtech, agritech, healthtech and life sciences, edtech, fintech, cybersecurity, data analytics, and smart cities.
Or take the life and healthcare sciences company, CIGA Healthcare. Producing Rapid Test Diagnostics which are manufactured in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, CIGA Healthcare supply over 70 countries globally – including in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Senegal, Ghana and Egypt.
Their over-the-counter and professional tests support doctors, nurses, and patients in Africa quickly and effectively diagnose and treat medical conditions, including early detection of menopause, urinary tract infections, iron deficiency, pregnancy and ovulation. Northern Ireland companies, such as CIGA Healthcare, are supporting the growth of the continent’s life and healthcare sciences sector.
Africa’s current economic progress – and its future trajectory – is not in doubt. Northern Ireland’s exports to the region are growing 15% year on year, with Egypt seeing an incredible 64% growth. Through partnership and commitment we look forward to working across the continent and supporting our dynamic and innovative Northern Ireland companies as they continue their growth journey in the region.
Raksha Maharaj, Regional Director Africa, Invest Northern Ireland