In his opening address of the 10th Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured, on the left) made the point that defence has a significant role as a developmental force. "South Africa views the role of the military in the modern context as a developmental force, both nationally and continentally," he said.
According to the president, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) ought to involve itself, with African partners, in peace missions to improve security in strife-torn regions. These intervention capabilities can reduce the risk of major interstate conflict and civil war.
"From a national perspective, the development role of our defence force implies involvement in border safeguarding," he said, adding that South Africa's border safeguarding operation, Corona, also focuses on preventing the illegal exploitation of national resources.
The defence force must always be ready to provide additional capacity to maintain order and stability within the relevant governance framework, he noted. "A defence force that is a developmental force unlocks substantial peace dividends for states and effectively reduces the investment required in defence over time."
Ramaphosa acknowledged that the country's economy was under pressure and that the means available in the fiscus were finite. However, the SANDF was adapting to this economic reality by prioritising and focusing on the core roles of the force. He added that several ideas were being explored to modernise the funding model of defence and reduce its dependency on the fiscus.
As for the South African defence industry, for both security and developmental reasons, the country was looking after it. "It is a national asset that has value for many departments and agencies of government," he said. "Our government intends to support the industry to become export-driven on the back of international investment, by having a policy stance favouring international joint ventures with local industry."
Highlighting the achievements of the industry, Ramaphosa said South Africa's aircraft-related businesses were expanding in a highly competitive environment as suppliers to the biggest players in the global aircraft industry.
Defence production in South Africa does not imply multinational interdependency. Local industry still tends to own the full supply chain necessary for conceptualising and manufacturing their end product.
"In terms of intellectual property, South Africa is one of less than 10 countries that can manufacture missiles of a certain level of sophistication."
This was prompting many nations, from different parts of the world, to express interest in becoming involved in joint ventures with the local industry. "AAD offers a massive opportunity for all present to identify areas of synergy and convert them into joint ventures," Ramaphosa concluded.