Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa–Nqakula officially opened the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2012 exhibition at Waterkloof Air Force Base this morning. The Silver Falcons South African Air Force aerobatic team performed a fly-by during the opening ceremony, welcoming an expected 20 000 trade visitors.
“Today it gives me pleasure to welcome so many of our honourable guests…as we open the seventh edition of Africa Aerospace and Defence,” Mapisa–Nqakula said, calling AAD a “landmark event” in the Department of Defence and defence industry calendar.
She said that this year’s edition of AAD is taking place at a time of economic difficulty around the world, but especially in developed countries. However, instability, insecurity, terrorism and extremism are driving the need for security. The issue of piracy, especially in Somalia, is a notable problem. Mapisa–Nqakula also pointed out the issues of terrorism, extremism and transnational crime as being threats to the peaceful coexistence of nations.
The minister said that in this strategic environment, as well as against a background of poverty and inequality in South Africa, she would like to see the defence industry grow, in order to support the South African National Defence Force, to invest in research and development and create a diversified and active defence industry that would create employment.
Mapisa–Nqakula said she hoped AAD would result in strategic defence and security partnerships, and the sharing of knowledge and expertise. She emphasised the importance of building partnerships with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, especially as South Africa is involved in peace support operations in countries such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To further this end, Mapisa–Nqakula said re-equipping the South African Army was a big priority. This would take place over the next three years.
“Let me extend a special thanks to all the exhibitors…it is our hope that yoru investment here will result in ….success for your companies,” the minister said. “It is now my honour to declare thsi exhibition, Africa Aerospace and Defence 2012, officially opened.”
Armscor chairman Lieutenant General Moreti “Mojo” Motau said that Africa Aerospace and Defence 2012 is the largest exhibitionof air, sea and defence capabilities on the African continent. AAD is made possible by a partnership between the Armaments Corporation of South Africa SOC Ltd (Armscor), South Africa’s Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industry Association (AMD) and the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CAASA), with full support from the Department of Defence and the active support of the Department of Trade & Industry, the Department of Transport and Department of Science & Technology.
“Since its inception AAD has continued to grow in size,” Motau said. He noted that there were 92 civil and military aircraft on display at Waterkloof this year, there were 350 exhibitors, 300 persons from the media, eight ministerial delegations and 120 VIP delegations. All in all, 28 countries are represented at the show.
As is the format with previous editions of AAD, the exhibition is divided into three trade days (September 19-21) and two air show days (September 22 and 23). Motau encouraged members of the public to enjoy the air show and bring children along, so they could see “where science and maths really work”. A Youth Development Programme features prominently in this year’s edition of AAD. It is anticipated that the public days will attract crowds in the region of more than 50,000 spectators per day.
Pic: Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa–Nqakula with Benny Jiyane, VR Laser Chief Operating Officer, as she inspects the stands at AAD 2012.