Northern Ireland firms on mission to grow trade links with Africa

Steve Harper pictured with UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade Smith
Steve Harper pictured with UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emma Wade Smith

A five day mission to Nigeria and South Africa will seek to strengthen links between the province and one of the world’s rapidly developing market places.

The Invest NI backed trip comes as the agency increases its international presence with a new Regional Manager in Johannesburg to help drive exports and promote investment and Northern Ireland Education in Sub Saharan Africa.

“The appointment in South Africa is part of our plans to expand our overseas network by up to 10 new locations around the world,” said Invest executive director of international business Steve Harper.

“This is in support of the International Trade Plan announced by former Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.

“The Regional Manager will be co-located with the UK Department for International Trade, based in the British High Commission in Johannesburg.

“The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa represent real opportunities for Northern Ireland and South Africa is one of the main focus countries. The regional manager will provide expert advice and guidance to help companies win new business in these markets, as well as seeking new investment and promoting both universities.”

This the sixth location to be announced as part of Invest NI’s plans to expand its international presence to help companies to grow exports.

HMRC figures for the year from March 2016 show that exports to South Africa increased by 4% to £38.5m, with machinery and equipment exports accounting for £20.5m of that.

“Northern Ireland companies, including Terex Finlay and CDE Global are just two examples of businesses already successfully exporting to South Africa and the wider Sub-Saharan region”, said Mr Harper who is leading the trade mission comprising 10 companies to South Africa and Nigeria.

Focusing on Johannesburg and Lagos, it includes some of Northern Ireland’s leading materials handling companies and companies from the food sector.

“I will also be taking the opportunity to meet with the new UK Trade Commissioner for Africa at the Department for International Trade, Emma Wade-Smith OBE, and the new British High Commissioner to South Africa, Nigel Casey MVO,” said Mr Harper.

“I am keen to discuss their respective strategies and how Northern Ireland can benefit from their wider network of offices and support to access some of the more challenging markets across Africa.”