Building Irish Geoscience in Africa

08 May 2019

Geoscience Ireland (GI) is a business cluster assisting 39 Irish, and Irish-based, contractor and consultancy firms in winning business in international markets and is supported by Geological Survey Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.

Geoscience Ireland joined the Construction Industry Federation in 2016 and is most prominent in the early stages of infrastructure development, although it is relevant at all stages in contracting works in terms of design, construction and in-situ monitoring of geotechnical solutions and environmental impacts.

The geoscience skill-set underpins a number of sectors including mining and quarrying, civil engineering for roads, ports and airports, and water and environmental engineering. The target markets of GI’ member companies are the UK, the Nordics, sub-Saharan Africa, the Gulf States and Canada.


Ireland in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has significant development opportunities and Ireland has accumulated a strong track record of delivering high quality infrastructure projects across the continent. GI member companies are active in the mining and quarrying, and transport and economic infrastructure sectors and have worked in almost every country on the continent.

Africa in 2019: Challenges and Opportunities

Africa comprises 54 states which have individual economic and development agendas. As Africa continues to develop – expecting a population of 2.5 billion by 2050 and an evolving middle class in parts where today one in 5 Africans are aged 15-24 – challenges and disparities are still very evident.

Nigeria remains Africa’s largest economy though it is yet to recover fully from the 2014 oil price crash and its currency crash of 2016 which saw the Naira’s value drop 44% against the US Dollar. The continent’s fastest growing economies include Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana, all of which hosted Trade Missions from Ireland recently; however rising debt is an undertone to these fast-paced transformations. The geo-economic shift over the past decade has witnessed China becoming Africa’s largest trading partner, and India, Russia and Turkey competing with Europe and the US.

Multilateral and international financial institutions (IFIs) will play a major role in development assistance. Commercial contracts supported by the likes of the World Bank Group, European and UN development programs and funds, and Ireland’s imminent membership to the African Development Bank will offer Irish companies a low-risk route to market.

Civil infrastructure is critical for the development of a country; by 2025, the PwC Capital Projects and Infrastructure report projects spending to be $180bn per annum. High quality roads, airports and ports are a necessity for a developing country to enable itself to prosper domestically and trade internationally. Such developments require expertise and quality delivery throughout the value chain from sourcing materials to engineering and constructing projects.

The Irish Expertise

GI member PW Nigeria operates its own quarries and has its own batching plants, self-loading mixers, transit mixer trucks, concrete pumps and slip form pavers to supply materials to developments in the West African country. To date, PW Nigeria has completed 5,000 kilometres of road, 100 KMs of runways (working on live runways including Lagos and Benin) and moved 65 million cubic meters of earth.

Neighbouring PW Mining International, based in Accra, Ghana, is a major player in Western Africa markets and provides contracting and engineering services for earth moving, pavement construction and industrial building. Its airport works include Kumasi and Kotoka in Ghana, and harbour repair works the port city of Sekondi for Tullow Oil.

Civil engineering is the design, development and problem solving in such developments. Both PW Nigeria and PW Mining have in-house expertise here while specialist, Africa-orientated, GI member companies include Nicholas O’Dwyer and JB Barry & Partners. Africa remains a key market for Nicholas O’Dwyer and has operated there since the 1970s. Its projects include undertaking an EU-funded hydrological survey in Mozambique; both highway and rural road developments in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland and Tanzania; consultancy for wastewater plant construction in Zambia; and water supply projects in Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

JB Barry has provided the technical expertise in project management, procurement, civil engineering, tunnelling, access roads, environment, public health and socio-economics to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project; this project has been in development since the mid-1980s and involves the construction of an intricate network of tunnels and dams to divert water from the mountains of Lesotho to South Africa.

Designer Group delivers the mechanical and electrical works enabling industrial, port and airport developments, such as Diageo’s brewing operations in Kenya and Tullow Oil’s Kenyan field facilities.

Commercial, economic and geo-political risks are considerable factors for new entrants in the market, notwithstanding these however; GI’s member companies are continuing to export their skills to an ever growing market.

If you wish to learn more about the opportunities for Irish companies in Africa, or to connect with Irish experts in-market, please contact Andrew Gaynor; [email protected] or 01 6782673.

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