Effective national security is key to economic prosperity, according to Armscor CEO Kevin Wakeford, who believes that unless sovereign security is improved, “we are open to total exploitation by the underworld” amongst other challenges.
Speaking at the Sovereign Security Africa conference in Pretoria on 31 October, Wakeford said that “my view is that the defence sector is the beachhead for further industrial development in South Africa. If you don’t have a strong military you don’t have a strong economy.” He added that when politicians understand the value of defence, there will be measure of sanity regarding economic development.
Wakeford emphasised that national/sovereign security is necessary for national prosperity. “If we don’t deal with drug and human trafficking, contraband – if the nation and state do not feel secure – you will not have progressive policy making and decision making…You cannot have people crossing borders willy nilly. We understand need for migration and movement of goods and services but we cannot allow South Africa to be treated like a circus tent.
“If you consider crime syndication, social deviance/dissonance – it’s directly linked to the notion of sovereign/national security. We have to bring about order, a national discipline and also bring about a respect for the values we cherish as a non-racial democracy. If we don’t start with the basics at our ports of entry, our border posts, we are open to total exploitation by the underworld.”
These sentiments were echoed by Chief of Defence Intelligence in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Lieutenant General Jeremia Nyembe. He said that the peace dividend creates conditions for economic growth and development, and consequently needs a strong military that inspires confidence in the population, otherwise the rule of law deteriorates.
Nyembe added that the defence industry makes an important contribution to the economy, while the SANDF assists with Government’s development agenda and its Nine Point economic growth plan as well as national development outcomes.
Wakeford also highlighted the importance of the defence industry in supporting national/sovereign security, saying that “we can’t rely on foreign imports. We need a sovereign supply, otherwise we are in trouble. We need to support our local industry in terms of the Armscor Act, which speaks to the support of local industry.”
The defence industry contributes to the economy, and “in this area we have been reasonably successful in spite of the tough economic environment. We have produced local innovative technology that has attracted global interest…We have many technologies appropriate to the civilian environment.”
Wakeford urged national security entities not to operate in silos. For instance, he urged the Border Management Authority, to be managed by the Department of Home Affairs, to consider procuring equipment from the private security industry in South Africa rather than relying on imported solutions.
“We have to involve the intellectual property we have developed in this country. Of course we will partner with foreign companies but only those that make a commitment to South Africa and our republic…and make sure South Africans are part of the wealth creation process.”
Armscor is pursuing a number of initiatives to support the local defence industry. Wakeford said this included the Defence Sector Charter, which has been signed off and is being gazetted. “This will become a living document in the near or short term which will make a huge impact on whether you will service the SANDF/Department of Defence. If you aren’t transformed or localised you won’t be doing business with government.”
Together with other partners including the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence (AMD) Industries Association of South Africa, Armscor has developed the Defence Industry Fund to finance the defence sector, specifically small, medium and macro sized enterprises that are struggling to access capital.
“Then there’s the National Defence Industry Council that’s examining many key issues in the state security sector as well as the defence sector. How do we finance capital equipment going forward? How do we sustain the defence sector in a shrinking budgetary environment? What do we need to do to keep the jewel in the South African crown alive and develop into an area of prosperity for South Africa?”
Wakeford concluded that technology is only part of the solution, and developing a solid plan and working as a team is essential for sovereign security in South Africa.
This was echoed by Ebeen Barlow, founder of Executive Outcomes, who told delegates that “lack of action is a problem. Every day we waste not addressing national security challenges we increase those threats. To say we have a plan is not enough – we need implementation.”