SA arms exports up in first half of 2023

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If current trends continue, South Africa is set to export far more military hardware and munitions this year than last, as exports in the first half of 2023 are already close to that of the whole of 2022.

In the first half of 2023, the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) approved R3.8 billion worth of munitions exports, compared with R1.4 billion for the first half of 2022.

Ultimately, for the 2022 calendar year, South Africa exported R4.679 billion worth of military hardware and munitions, up from R3.353 billion the year before.

On 7 September, Advocate Ezra Jele, NCACC Secretariat Head, briefed Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on first and second quarter imports and exports. His figures revealed that for the first quarter of 2023, the NCACC approved 128 munitions export permits to 34 countries, valued at R957 million, and 28 dual use goods permits to 14 countries valued at R108 million.

For the second quarter of 2023, the NCACC approved 136 munitions exports permits to 17 countries valued at R2.8 billion, and 39 dual use technology exports to 14 countries worth R229 million.

Regarding imports, in 2023’s first quarter, the NCACC approved 49 import permits worth R5 million from 14 countries, and in the second quarter authorised 69 import permits from 25 countries worth R400 000.

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).

The strong export sales in the first two quarters of 2023 are most likely a result of the general world increase in military expenditure that accelerated following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that global military expenditure continued to increase last year, remaining well over the $2 trillion mark, to reach a new high of $2 240 billion.

“The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world,” said Dr Nan Tian, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future.”