Thumbs-up from AMD for DIRCO economic diplomacy initiative

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Looking back on 2023, the SA Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (better and more widely known as AMD) in its first ever newsletter makes mention of six successes.

They are listed as an international presence and collaboration, referring to defence exhibitions such as IDEX (International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), IDEF (International Defence Industry Fair in Istanbul, Turkey) and DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International in London, England); a public private partnerships for defence conference co-hosted with defenceWeb; BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) exhibition and AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) participation; industry showcase at the SA Army Division level exercise Vuk’uhlome; and a defence capability demonstration day at Gerotek along with a sovereign security conference at the same venue.

Among others the AMD newsletter will, according to Executive Director Sandile Ndlovu, highlight technological progress “ensuring we consistently lead the way in innovation, both on the global stage and within our industry”.

Ahead of the newsletter, the AMD 2023 annual report welcomed “a co-ordination structure for economic development” under the auspices of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO).

Ndlovu reports the development in Minister Naledi Pandor’s bailiwick – known by the acronym COMED (Co-Ordination Mechanism for Economic Diplomacy) – following extended lobbying for government political support that “seems to have fallen on fertile or receptive ground”. COMED comprises “relevant government departments and entities to enable trade” with AMD representing the aerospace and defence sectors.

Ndlovu has it AMD will use its COMED membership to pursue the mandate given by AMD members to open up foreign markets.

“We are not there yet, but we are surely moving in the right direction. We are hoping that with the establishment of this structure, we will start to see deliberate and concerted efforts of business expansion and promotion – with government leading from the front.”

On possible pitfalls he writes not all markets will yield positive results for AMD members and the wider South African defence industry (SADI) making the use of market intelligence essential. This has seen AMD approach the Gauteng Department of Economic Development to develop suitable market intelligence platforms.

“The envisaged market intelligence platform will be accessible to all our members and will be used to identify opportunities per continent, region and even country. It will be a system that will allow companies to search for opportunities globally.

“With opportunities identified we will still require additional assistance in converting those opportunities to orders. The uniqueness of our sector compels us to not only rely on a single layer of support,” and according to him this will see expansion of the AMD export ambassadors and advocates programme.

Introduced five years ago the programme sees retired diplomats and senior officers “who have availed themselves to work with our companies to open up markets, particularly on the African continent”. The group now includes retired intelligence officers, giving further impetus to the “diverse nature” of SADI product offerings.