United Kingdom defence and security companies at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition currently underway in Pretoria are looking for South African partners as well as companies who can meet the UK military’s procurement needs.
Sophie Lane, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) Regional Director for the Gulf and Africa, told defenceWeb that the organisation brought around twenty companies to AAD, of which eight are featured on the UKTI DSO stand.
This is the first time that the UKTI DSO has come to Africa. Lane said this was because the South African defence industry is now mature enough “to give a go,” as it supplies its own and other armed forces. Denel in particular is well positioned to meet South Africa’s defence requirements.
Some of the companies that came to AAD 2014 include Maybe Bridge (Bridge construction), BlueBear (unmanned aerial vehicles, avionics, sensor payloads), Inmarsat (satellite communications), Gryphon Air (contract aviation services), and Griffon Hoverwork (hovercraft).
Lane said her organisation was looking for a couple of things: to build the UK’s understanding and relationship with the South African military and government and get an understanding of the capability requirements of the 2014 Defence Review so the UK defence industry can work out what it can offer towards that. “There’s opportunity for British industry at a time when South Africa is talking about increasing defence spending,” she told defenceWeb. “We are looking for partnerships with South African industry regionally and locally…We want South Africa to be a partner, not just a supplier.”
Lane emphasised that the UK is interested in both the defence and security sectors. UK companies with specialities in border and maritime security, cyber security and counter poaching have a lot to offer South Africa as some of their capabilities are unique and can be integrated into South African products, she said. She noted that some of these are big growth areas for the United Kingdom, which is putting a lot of energy and effort into developing them.
Lane said that the UKTI DSO is also looking at opportunities for South African companies in the United Kingdom and is hoping to raise awareness of opportunities there. She encouraged local companies to bid for UK requirements and suggested they visit the UK Defence Contracts Bulletin (contracts.mod.uk) to submit bids.
A variety of capabilities are being offered by the companies at AAD, including logistics management, tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite communications, hovercraft, bridges, aircraft and airport refurbishment etc. “Most companies here are looking for south African partners…how to work with partners here so they can build understanding of the market and add to capability within South African industry.
“The response from South African companies has been very good. There has been a lot of interaction and good conversations with government,” Lane said. Some UKTI DSO companies have already had meetings with South African companies and have been pleased with the reception. Armscor has talked to the group and discussed South Africa’s defence procurement processes.
Bilateral UK-South Africa defence relations will not end after AAD – Lane wants to continue building on the current engagement and later organise ship and company visits.