African Aerospace Entrepreneur Seeks Partner In China’s Space Program

African Aerospace Entrepreneur Seeks Partner In China’s Space Program

The CEO and founder of South Africa’s largest privately owned aerospace and defense company says China’s growing space program could provide ample opportunities for South African high-tech companies.

Ivor Ichikowitz and his company, Paramount Group, are in talks with large Chinese companies, hoping to take China’s booming space program, and mankind, one step closer to another planet, according to a report in ChinaDaily.

“They are putting a huge amount of money into the aerospace environment and we have made it clear we’re ready to share our knowledge,” Ichikowitz said.

Paramount is best known for more earthly creations – the company’s Marauder vehicle reached celebrity status when it was featured on the popular TV show “Top Gear.”

“China was not as evident on our radar screen in years gone by, but it’s very much a focus for us now,” Ichikowitz said. “We want to move our relationship beyond just a purchasing relationship to a partnership. We actually want to create a China-South Africa strategic alliance in the high-tech fields of defense and aerospace.”

In June, the China-Africa Business Council and China-Africa Development Fund, which represent more than 550 Chinese businesses in Africa, set up two funds worth $2 billion to encourage foreign investment in new areas in Africa.

To start Paramount, Ichikowitz  gathered unused pieces of military equipment and funding from banks. In the ensuing 15 years, Paramount designed South Africa’s first light high-performance aircraft and helped maintain the country’s air force.

Ichikowitz also serves as executive chairman of private equity group TransAfrica Capital Ltd., which funds businesses from retail and hospitality to scientific research.

He has visited all of Africa’s countries and believes China and Africa are well-suited trade partners.

“Africa’s strengths are China’s weaknesses, and China’s weaknesses are Africa’s strengths,” he said. “Africa has the raw materials that China needs for its industry, but those raw materials can benefit (from going through) a second or third stage in Africa before they are supplied to Chinese industries.”