Those in key sectors, such as oil and gas, IT and communication, food and drink, construction and infrastructure, and aid-funded business could gain better access to opportunities thanks to the move which is expected to see the agency increase the number of companies it supports to the market.
SDI plans to increase the number of supported companies to 300 by 2014/15 – double that of 2012/13 – and increase Scotland’s international sales to Africa beyond the current £2 billion mark.
Its new office will serve as a hub for West Africa, including the neighbouring Nigeria and Angola markets.
Although the African operation will focus initially on the energy sector and on oil and gas in particular, it will also keep abreast of opportunities for companies in sectors where Scotland also has key strengths such as IT and communication, food and drink, construction and infrastructure, and aid-funded business.
To help mark the new office opening and to coincide with a Commonwealth Games business event held to celebrate Scotland as the global home of oil and gas, SDI and Subsea UK have even launched a new guide to ‘Doing Business in West Africa – Oil and Gas Subsea Focus.’
Gary Soper, SDI’s new regional manager for Africa, said: “Six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies of the past decade are in sub-Saharan Africa. Whilst Africa is a vast continent of some 54 countries with over 1 billion people, there are a smaller number of those countries that are economic ‘hot spots’ which offer Scotland huge opportunities.
“Our new office will provide on the ground support to the increasing number of Scottish companies interested in these growing markets, helping them raise Scotland’s overall exports beyond the £2 billion mark.
“We want to support around 300 companies by 2014/15 to open up new opportunities in Africa. Having a presence in-market, we also aim to develop stronger and deeper relationships which will result not only in trade but new inward investment opportunities.
“In the next 12 months, we also plan to open up a second office in East Africa, with a focus on Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique markets.
“The global subsea market is predicted to double its growth from £20 billion to £40 billion by 2017. This offers significant opportunities for Scotland and our new guide, which focuses on Angola, Ghana and Nigeria markets, aims to help companies take their first successful step into the West African market. It provides market intelligence together with information about what companies need to know, the challenges they may face and the steps to take to get them started on their market entry strategy.”
Scottish Government minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing added: “I am delighted that SDI is expanding its operations, by opening its first office in Africa. Key overseas markets are an important part of our renewed efforts to capitalise on Scotland’s strengths in sectors such as energy, food and drink and life sciences.
“Africa accounted for over £1 billion of Scottish exports in 2012 and there is considerable scope for Scotland to expand its export base by diversifying further into these emerging markets. Capitalising on these opportunities will support us in achieving our ambitious target to deliver a 50 per cent increase in the value of international exports by 2017.
“Proactive work such as this is vitally important both in building on our existing connections and in creating new trade and investment linkages in this vast emerging market.”
Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK, said: “As operators move into deeper and more remote territories, significant opportunities open up for British subsea companies whose techniques and expertise are sought after to develop these new fields. We expect to see a considerable portion of global oil and gas capital expenditure spent in West Africa in the next few years, thanks to large-scale projects such as the Kaombo and Cabaca fields in Angola and the Bonga southwest project in Nigeria.
“A key strand of Subsea UK’s strategy is to encourage our members to increase export activity by supporting them in tapping into new markets. This latest guide, along with our partnership with SDI who have a strong on-the-ground presence, will help companies gain the knowledge they need to capitalise on the huge potential the West African market affords.”