AMD looking to reposition SA defence industry amid uncertain times


The South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industry Association (AMD) hopes to lead the local defence industry out of the quagmire it finds itself in due to uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

AMD Chairperson Sefale Montsi, in a New Year’s message to members, wrote that the South African Defence Industry (SADI) stands at the crossroads – one road leading to assured disruption amidst uncertainty and the other leading to stability and growth.

“The Acting Executive Director, Mr Sandile Ndlovu, is completing engagements with AMD members to identify the priority actions that will ensure the survival of our industry. Within this context, our board will embark on a Strategic Planning Session in early February with the focus of repositioning the South African Defence Industry and crafting a strategy to take the SADI out of its current state. If we are to increase opportunities locally and get support for exports, we must be positioned in line with the implementation of the Aerospace and Defence master plan and take on tasks that are going to benefit our members and the entire defence industry,” Montsi stated.

Despite a gloomy 2020, AMD has recorded some successes, and completed the Aerospace & Defence master plan process during the AMD Board Session in October 2020.

The industry was affected by National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) permit delays, which halted members’ ability to export. An NCACC task team established by the AMD Board “worked tirelessly with the DCAC [Directorate Conventional Arms Control] office to ensure that the permit backlog was resolved and that permits were issued. A number of the Arms Control issues relating to End User Certificates (EUC’s) mainly to the Middle East were also resolved.”

Montsi stated that AMD continued to engage with key strategic stakeholders to strengthen the SADI’s position as an industry critical to the success of the South African Economy. “Over the past few months, AMD engaged successfully with the South African Presidency, the State Security Agency, the JCPS [Justice, Crime Prevention and Security] Cluster, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence as well as Brand South Africa.”

In line with COVID-19 restrictions, AMD took part in multiple online events in 2020 and in July successfully hosted its first virtual AGM and all traditional conferences, namely the Sovereign Security Conference as well as the AMD Conference, were moved online. The Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition organisers were also able to host a virtual conference in October 2020 following the cancellation of AAD 2020.

More online events will most likely be the norm for much of 2021 as AMD sees more exhibitions being postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic. The South African defence industry will not be participating at IDEX 2021 in the United Arab Emirates next month under a National Pavilion funded by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition due to continued COVID-19 uncertainties. Additional exhibitions such as LAAD 2021 in Brazil and Paris Airshow 2021 have been cancelled by the organisers. AMD anticipates international exhibitions to resume during the third quarter of 2021.

Inbound and outbound activities have been further affected, Montsi stated. “The AMD Office received formal correspondence from Defence Foreign Relations advising that all inbound and outbound activities remain prohibited until further notice. This also led to the cancellation of the planned local Aerospace and Defence Trade Show (ADTS 2021) scheduled to take place in March 2021 at Lanseria International Airport. The association will continue to seek alternative platforms to promote the industry and the SADI will be kept informed with latest developments and upcoming activities.”

Montsi’s message to the SA defence industry said that “ordinarily a New Year marks a new beginning and renewal for the future, however we begin 2021 with enhanced uncertainty with regards to the sustainability for both the defence industry as well as the broader economic landscape in South Africa and around the world. The recovery from the impact of the pandemic is not as anticipated, with South Africa unfortunately hit with a second wave of the COVID-19 virus. 2020 was not an easy year as the local defence budget had been cut, the SADI was further affected by NCACC permit delays which halted members’ ability to export.”

However, Montsi urged the South African defence industry to remain resilient as South Africa continues to fight the battle of the COVID-19 pandemic and AMD works to reposition the industry to ensure its survival.