A ‘Paramount’ Opportunity: The Prospects for Next-Generation American Integration in Africa
Africa is at the cusp of technological revolution; an explosive push forward for many of the vibrant countries that shape the continent.
This revolution is reflected best in the modern-day opportunities for foreign partnership, for African investment, those prospects certainly not unknown to the shifting superpowers of the United States and China; the former, ostentatiously lagging behind while the latter tightens its firm grip on world trade.
However one sector in which both nations may have theoretically overlooked could hold the key to investment potential and prosperity on the continent. Defense and security innovations, decidedly and closely linked to the economic development of emerging market African communities.
And one such partner can be found in this bastion of opportunity; the Paramount Group.
Founded in 1994 by entrepreneur, philanthropist and industrialist Ivor Ichikowitz, the Paramount Group is an organization championing the defense and security industry and in fact exporting their mantra (and interoperable fleet) around the world. From developing and deploying cutting edge solutions to meet Africa’s regionally-diverse challenges, Mr. Ichikowitz’ leadership has enabled Paramount Group to transform into what is today a global enterprise, comprised of over three thousand employees, working with sovereign governments across five continents, with manufacturing facilities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In late February, Paramount Group achieved yet another milestone in its track record of enterprise success – alongside Bronco Combat Systems (BCS), the introduction of a long-range reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft; an ‘AHRLAC’ (Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) to be produced in the United States under the title ‘BRONCO II.’ The BRONCO II is to be a light, maneuverable aircraft and a platform of choice for missions focusing on intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR), as well as air support in coastal/border patrol, anti-smuggling and disaster relief endeavors.
I had a chance to speak with Mr. Ichikowitz immediately following the launch of the BRONCO II. “We foresaw that over a period of time, the U.S. would no longer be engaged in supersonic to supersonic aerial warfare; that tanks would not be going up against tanks and the U.S. would have a requirement for find, fix and finish aircraft capable of undertaking the kind of hybrid missions its Air Force is increasingly finding itself being called upon to perform,” Ichikowitz said.
It’s a dynamic leap forward and speaks volumes as to Africa’s ascendance to the forefront of the global marketplace. Here we have a wholly-African enterprise integrating to the United States, rather than Africans witnessing American integration around them, what one traditionally expect.
Indeed as per the United States and China in their continued power struggle on the continent, one can only surmise capitalising on Africa’s growing embrace of technology, prevalent in defence and security solutions and effectively partnering with sovereign governments to together scale, would be viewed as an above-board, shrewd foreign investment strategy for the Trump administration.
Conversely, McKinsey acknowledges that the Chinese government is aggressively supporting African FDI, including by providing loans: between 2000 and 2015, China’s Export-Import Bank granted 37 times more loans than the Export–Import Bank of the United States.
Time will tell if the Trump administration sees Africa, be it the private sector or through strategic bilateral public partnerships, as an investment worth taking, rather than perpetuate an ‘America First’ approach that has reshaped perception of the United States at home and perhaps jeopardize its footprint abroad.
In the meantime, we will watch those African power-players and ambassadors of change such as Mr. Ichikowitz with continued interest as they themselves reshape business as usual on the African continent and beyond.