Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Subscription Centre
Receive our free e-newsletter.
Click here for more information

Qatar-South Africa defence relations improving?

A G5 howitzer.The spotlight is currently on Qatar, as Doha is embarking on a massive buying spree from major partners such as the USA, the UK and France – (Paris just bagged $12 billion worth of contracts for vehicles and jets) but far from those hi-profile and sometimes perplexing transactions, other relationships are worth mentioning.

On Nov.1 Qatar defense minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah made a state visit to Pretoria during which he met with South African president Jacob Zuma. According to British newspaper The Sunday Times, talks were held between the two parties to sell a majority stake of arms manufacturer Denel to the Gulf country, as well for Qatar to invest into South African Airways and power utility Eskom, a report a South African government spokesman denied. Several South African state-owned enterprises such as Denel and South African Airways were bailed out this year to prevent a call on its government-guaranteed debt.

According to one Middle Eastern source, Pretoria has sought to increase military and security relations with Gulf Cooperation Council states but only sold Qatar 12 G-5 155mm towed howitzers in 1991. But the joint embargo enacted by neighbouring Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in June 2017 against the Gulf monarchy forced Doha to find not only new food supply sources and new air routes but also new allies. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are notably a field the two countries could cooperate on.

As early as 2015 Qatari Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major-General Ghanim Bin Shaheen Al-Ghanim presented a plan for Qatari participation in the UAV industry with countries such as France and Turkey, but also with South Africa, both for ISR and combat mission. At the same time Denel, which started UAV development in 1991 with Israeli assistance, financially struggles due to few domestic orders. According to AIN Online, “two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from exports.” Pretoria’s marketing has so far resulted in the sale of small quantities of UAVs, most notably to Algeria and the UAE, but a Qatari investment could open new horizons. But these projects could be impaired by an existing joint venture between Denel and UAE company Tawazun Holdings to export guidance upgrade for Mk-801 bombs Pretoria would most likely be forced to cancel due to the diplomatic rift between Qatar and the UAE.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.