Business Profiles

The Sunbird Group – Giving the region wings

East Africa has long been known to stand on rich land, yet extraction of these resources has been fraught with difficulty for the region’s population. Finally, the area has reached a tipping point where investment and interest outweighs these challenges, and the countries are set to face an industrial and economic boom – if the companies are able to form and embrace the opportunities. The Sunbird Group want them to do exactly that, and they’re here to help.

The Sunbird Group was founded in 2014 by Michael Aldridge and William Sykes, both old hats at seeding enterprises in Africa. Likewise, all the Group’s key stakeholders have a history of working within the region, or a passion for seeing it flourish. This team works in conjunction with industry leaders in the UK who are committed to East Africa industry and living, including Arthur Andersen, Morgan Stanley, KPMG, PwC, Kroll and Carillion.

Together, the Group works to support East African industry by bringing world-class standards in construction and services to emerging projects. It focuses on construction and support services, assisting in the building, running and blossoming of companies across South and East Africa. They achieve this for and with young or growing companies, offering assistance either through the services that their subsidiaries provide, or by partnering with these newer companies on joint-ventures.

Whilst the Group’s head office is in London, they have five office sites across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. More importantly, though, is that their subsidiaries are locally based, hiring in the regions and working closely with the communities around them, be it a busy urban project or a business in the remotest of rural locations. Their mission is to not only see their own companies grow within the Group, nor the companies they work alongside, but the entire East African region. As they state themselves;

“We’re committed to Eastern and Southern Africa and its evolution as a major hub for business. We know it in depth and in detail – from the physical landscape to the local business customs. We’re perfectly positioned to help companies of all sizes as they establish themselves and grow their businesses.”

By injecting essential expertise and financial support into projects that are still putting down their roots, Sunbird hope to see a stronger new wave of industry emerge. They believe that the potential and opportunity was already there – in the year they were founded, 2014, the IMF World Economic Outlook found that six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa. Three years later, now is a pivotal and delicate time for the East African industry sector: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda and South Africa were and are all experiencing high levels of foreign investment, creating a ripe environment for new companies. These investments followed the discoveries of various natural resources, sparking not only interest, but the eager construction of new infrastructure capable of supporting the latest in 21st century industrial practices. East Africa reached a point where it no longer needed to rely on foreign aid, the level of investment becoming sufficient to overcome the challenges presented by the region’s conditions: all that is needed now, Sunbird believed, was a little push.

The Sunbird Group wants to see this influx not only inject new life into East African industry, but as a result, permanently improve the lives of the region’s local people. To ensure this, as well as working to support new companies, they also work within these communities, developing the infrastructure needed to raise living standards. Whilst employment and enterprise is needed to economically improve an area, Sunbird do not want to put the cart before the horse; they know that without workers having the basic essentials of healthcare, education and of course shelter, a company or area cannot achieve improvement in the long-term.

Whilst established and run by a strong combination of industry experts, Sunbird didn’t automatically have the influence and market position required to carry out all of the change they wanted to see. Between 2012-2014, they worked to strengthen their position by expanding their supplier and content networks, building connections and studying what was needed in the region. Since 2014, they have won major construction, property and support services contracts with a variety of businesses, both regional and multinational.

Many challenges face these developments. For one, the region’s six countries occupy highly diverse types of terrain, meaning that standardized solutions cannot be applied to all operations. This is where companies need not only technical support, but sound advice. Thankfully, knowledge and knowledge-based growth is the cornerstone of Sunbird’s operations, covering not only in-depth understanding of the landscape, but analysis of market’s subtleties and their client’s own requirements, in order to suggest the best solutions and path forwards.

However, Sunbird’s support is delivered in a variety of ways. The Group’s umbrella covers many companies, mostly working in the arenas of design and construction, but also branching out into finance and even crisis training. Out of a total of eight, the group’s three major subsidiaries are Sunbird Asset Finance, Sunbird Developments and Sunbird Facilities Management: all three are a part of Sunbird’s overarching mission to support African development, each using their unique tools and expertise.

Sunbird Asset Finance provides capital to a wide range of property development projects, giving East African companies the financial flexibility and backing they need to get their dreams off the ground. Not only this, they support projects at every stage of the development process, from securing plots of land to offering advise during construction, and even the lease or sale of a property once completed.

Meanwhile, Sunbird Developments project manage their own developments, individually or in partnership with other developers, taking a well-researched and risk managed approach to their builds. Finally, once a project is complete and your business is up and running, Sunbird Facilities Management will provide and manage hard and soft services to assist your operations. They offer this support to all brands of business, from office work through to heavy industry, and even remote rural endeavours. Whatever you are undertaking in East Africa, Sunbird Group have your needs covered.

Some of the Group’s successes to date include several world-class mining facilities, established in Tanzania and Mozambique. Locals in these areas have literally been sitting on gold mines, without the reliable resources to access and prosper from the resources at their feet. Coal is another extremely valuable resource that can now be mined, and the recent discover of hydrocarbons in Kenya suggests that this area could eventually become a major oil producer. With all this potential finally able to be tapped, it is predicted that by 2040, Sub-Saharan Africa could have the largest proportion of economically active adults in any major market. This is an incredible statistic, and one that would change the global face of East Africa for the foreseeable future. If the Sunbird Group get there way, this prediction will soon become a reality, and they’ll be there every step of the way.