Speaking at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, Ivor Ichikowitz, executive chairman of South Africa’s Paramount Group, explained the strong opportunity for collaboration between the UAE and Africa, with its rapidly rising capabilities in the aerospace and defence industry.

In the first panel, CEOs from BAE Systems, Paramount Group, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Thales addressed the question of: “Can investment in aviation, aerospace, space and defence industries act as a catalyst for industrialisation?”

As the only African representative at the conference, Ichikowitz, highlighted the impressive developments Africa has made in the last 20 years, and the ability of companies such as Paramount to offer unique, stress-tested solutions using world-class technology.

He noted: “Although global defence spending is declining, the opposite is taking place in the Middle East, and locally we see the Middle East, and especially the UAE, moving away from being consumers of defence and aerospace technologies to manufacturers of products and leaders in technology.

“It is here where our countries can find important synergies that will act as a catalyst for innovation and industrialisation.”

Here he noted that developments such as Tawazun Industrial Park in Abu Dhabi have an important role in developing the UAE’s ambitious manufacturing and technology plans, and that South Africa is a natural defence partner in initiatives such as this, continuing:

“We are actively developing partnerships that will drive industrialisation through the establishment of defence industrial capability across the Middle East.”

For example, Paramount has been responsible for the African continent’s very first AHRLAC, or ‘Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft’, designed for surveillance and reconnaissance and incidentally ideal for the military requirements of the Middle East.

The group’s design took just four years to develop from inception to completion, has the largest single-piece cockpit canopy in the world, operates inexpensively, and offers a highly configurable payload system that enables it to be transformed quickly between roles.

“There are many exciting developments in Africa’s aerospace industry and we continue to surprise the world with the unique capabilities and skills that our continent has to offer, but we are particularly excited at what the next six months have in stall for us here in the Middle East,” says Ichikowitz.

Africa’s largest privately-owned defence and aerospace business, Paramount is a leader in defence innovation and a trusted partner of governments around the world, providing ground-breaking security products and consultancy, and supporting peacekeeping missions.

Ivor Ichikowitz is also known for his philanthropic work in Africa, and his 2010 establishment of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation to drive his commitment to the development of young people through educational, environmental and cultural initiatives.