Nearly R1 billion worth of defence exports in third quarter of 2023

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The South African defence industry exported R900 million worth of military equipment, including dual-use items, in the third quarter of 2023, up slightly from the same period last year.

This is according to the National Conventional Arms Control Committee’s (NCACC’s) third quarter report, covering the period July to September. The report was presented to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence on 23 November by NCACC Secretariat Head, Advocate Ezra Jele.

NCACC figures show that 162 export permits worth R853 million were authorised to 31 countries in the third quarter. In addition, 23 permits to 11 countries worth R33 million were authorised for dual use goods and technology.

This compares to 152 export permits to 41 countries authorised for munitions in the third quarter of 2022, totalling R818 million. During that period, 43 export permits to 16 countries were authorised for dual-use items, totalling R137 million.

Jele noted a large increase in imports for the third quarter of this year compared to last: for Q3 of 2023, the NCACC lists R3.4 billion worth of import permits authorised, from 24 countries. This is up substantially from the R25 million in imports from 17 countries in the same period last year.

For the first half of 2023, the NCACC approved just over R4 billion worth of munitions and dual use exports, putting the total for all three quarters of the year at R4.9 billion. This already exceeds 2022’s total of R4.679 billion.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a consequent rise in global defence spending, South African defence exports have been steadily rising, according to NCACC figures, up from R3.353 billion in 2022.

While Jele did not give a breakdown of what the 2023 export permits covered, it is likely that ammunition made up a large component, along with electronic systems. This would be in line with 2022 calendar year exports, which were dominated by ammunition (R1.6 billion), bombs and rockets (R946 million), and electronic equipment (R1.3 billion).

Global military expenditure continued to increase last year, remaining well over the $2 trillion mark, to reach a new high of $2 240 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), indicating that South Africa’s defence exports are likely to continue growing after a period of stagnation, compounded by difficulties in securing export permits to countries in the Middle East.