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Africa, Northern Ireland Forge Mining Sector Alliance for Economic Growth

Northern Ireland’s Expertise Bolsters Africa's Mining Industry, Spurring Mutual Economic Advancement

by Adenike Adeodun

Over the past decade, Africa and Northern Ireland have cultivated an unbreakable bond, particularly in the mining sector, exemplifying resilience, perseverance, and a shared commitment to economic advancement. RAKSHA MAHARAJ, Regional Director for Africa at Invest Northern Ireland, highlights how this collaboration transcends geographical distances, promising transformative growth for both regions.

Mining and materials handling, vital components of Africa’s annual GDP, are poised for significant expansion. Northern Ireland, with its advanced engineering and quarrying expertise, stands as an indispensable partner in this journey. This collaboration aims to revolutionize Africa’s mining sector while fostering mutual economic growth.

The demand for Africa’s minerals has soared, driven by infrastructure development, cloud computing, automation, virtual technology, and an increasing focus on social and environmental responsibility. As the sector evolves with digital transformation and sustainable practices, Northern Ireland emerges as a key ally, supporting Africa’s vision and growth.

In 2022, Northern Ireland’s commitment to Africa was crystal clear, with exports exceeding £156 million. Notably, South Africa experienced a remarkable 24% growth in trade with Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland boasts one of the most advanced innovation clusters globally, especially in materials handling, mining, and quarrying. An impressive 40% of the world’s mobile crushing and screening equipment is manufactured in this region. The materials handling sector in Northern Ireland, with over 100 companies, produces a wide array of equipment, from block-making machines to automated conveyor systems.

Pioneering companies from Northern Ireland are increasingly making their mark across Africa. For instance, Powerscreen and McCloskey, leading mobile crushing and screening equipment manufacturers, are expanding their reach in Africa through local distributors. CDE Group, specializing in wet processing equipment, has successfully delivered projects in countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Innovation continues with companies like Sensoteq, which monitors vital parameters in machinery, enhancing efficiency and preempting failures. In a significant development in 2023, Tribe Technology PLC partnered with Anglo American, one of the largest mining groups globally, to supply advanced drilling systems.

Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI), the region’s economic development agency, plays a pivotal role in supporting Northern Irish companies in their export ventures. The synergy between Northern Ireland and Africa is not just about business transactions; it’s about building a bridge of expertise, capability, and opportunity. Through offices in Cairo and Johannesburg, Invest NI is dedicated to connecting African stakeholders with Northern Irish innovation and know-how.

This partnership is a testament to the power of international collaboration. It underscores how shared goals and complementary strengths can create a landscape of prosperity and progress. Northern Ireland, with its rich heritage in engineering and innovation, offers a wealth of knowledge and technology that is invaluable to Africa’s burgeoning mining sector. Conversely, Africa’s rich mineral resources and growing market present Northern Irish companies with vast opportunities for expansion and impact.

According to a report by Mining Review, the alliance is multifaceted, extending beyond the mining sector to encompass broader economic and social dimensions. It’s a relationship that nurtures innovation, fosters sustainable practices, and promotes social responsibility, aligning with global trends and local needs.

Invest NI’s role in this partnership is pivotal. By facilitating connections and collaborations, Invest NI is not just fueling business growth but also contributing to the socio-economic development of both regions. This approach aligns with the global shift towards sustainable and responsible mining practices, where environmental stewardship and community engagement are as important as economic outcomes.

As this partnership enters a new decade, the focus is on deepening and diversifying the collaboration. The future holds immense potential for joint ventures in research and development, technology transfer, and capacity building. Such initiatives will not only enhance the mining sector’s efficiency and productivity but also ensure it contributes positively to the communities it serves.

The story of Africa and Northern Ireland is a narrative of two regions coming together to create a future that is economically robust and socially responsible. It’s a partnership that exemplifies how global collaboration can lead to shared success, mutual growth, and a sustainable future. As Mining Indaba 2024 approaches, this alliance stands as a beacon of hope and a model for international cooperation in the mining sector and beyond.

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