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Africa is becoming a more and more lucrative defence market, with international defence companies chasing deals on the continent.  In just the past three months, up to April 2014, five global defence companies have announced plans to open factories, maintenance facilities and marketing offices in four southern and east African countries.

The companies provide goods and services in the fields of armoured vehicles, military aircraft, aerospace defence systems and naval shipbuilding. DynCorp, and Saab have already started operations in their new African bases.

Defence companies see this as a sign of the continent’s burgeoning defence market, in which various governments are expected to sign deals worth an estimated US$20 billion over the next decade. Defence industry analysts say planned purchases include new and upgraded armoured vehicles, naval patrol craft, military aircraft, air defence systems, UAVs, improvised explosive device (IED) jammers and radars.

A defence market analyst attached to the Zimbabwe Staff College of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) said that the growing demand for defence products in southern Africa is powered by the desire to modernize forces, while countries in east and west Africa are building up to confront evolving trans-national security threats.

The threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a driver for countries on the Atlantic coast of West Africa to equip themselves to confront piracy.  Despite these trends, and despite generally steady economic growth, he said global defence manufacturers should not expect demand from the African market to outgrow expectations.  Financial constraints are always a factor when dealing with African nations, irrespective of the wealth generated by natural resources. 

Kenya: Kenya has emerged as a top beneficiary and purchaser of defence equipment.  In January, Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri said it will soon establish its first African shipyard to supply new naval vessels and provide maintenance-repair-overhaul (MRO) services to African and Middle Eastern customers. Fincantieri intends the new Mombasa yard to serve the growing demand for naval vessels and defence systems for governments facing piracy and terrorism in the north and east and the Horn of Africa.

The company wants to build on the momentum created by its recent launch of the Algerian Navy’s new multi-purpose landing helicopter dock ship. Part of the Bâtiment de Débarquement et de Soutien Logistique type, the Kalaat Beni-Abbes started final sea tests on 14 January in La Spezia, Italy. It will undergo platform and combat system customer acceptance trials before handover to the Algerian Navy in September.

In February 2014, Eurocopter Southern Africa Limited (ESAL), announced plans to set up a permanent base at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to support the company’s airborne law enforcement and civic emergency response gear.  ESAL Chief Executive Officer, Arnaud Montalvo, said the new base will help sell to the country’s booming civil aviation sector and meet steady demand from the Kenya Defence Force, the Kenya Police Services, and the Kenya Wildlife Service.  Eurocopter Southern Africa Limited has sold helicopters to the Lesotho Defence Forces, the Botswana Defence Force and the Namibia Police Services. Most sales outside South Africa have been to law-enforcement agencies.  The new base at Wilson, one of Africa’s busiest airports, will help ESAL chase new business with newer helicopters and MRO (Spell out) jobs on older models.

Namibia/Lesotho:  ESAL has introduced two new platforms: the EC145, with one delivered to the Namibian Police Services, and the EC135 to the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). The company expects to sell more helicopters to the LDF in the medium term.

Montalvo said the company also hopes to build on sales to the Angolan offshore oil and gas markets by aggressively marketing its larger helicopters to firms serving the emerging oil and gas facilities off Mozambique and Kenya.

Botswana:  In late March 2014, Saab opened a marketing office in Botswana’s capital of Gaborone as a sign of the company’s confidence in the country’s potential as a market and as a hub.  The Swedish company, which already had offices in Kenya and South Africa and some sales in Angola, Botswana, Ghana and Namibia, is looking to boost its business in the Sub-Saharan region.  Saab picked Botswana for its transparent business environment and high potential for business opportunities for various products. Saab officials say Botswana has expressed serious intent to acquire Saab’s flagship Gripen E fighter jet.  Saab, which seeks 10 percent of the global military aircraft market within the next 20 years, hopes that Sub-Saharan African countries will buy up to 450 Gripens of the C, D and E models.  The company touts the plane’s relatively low cost of development, acquisition, operation and maintenance.

Other Saab products include tactical UAVs, surface-to-air missiles, maritime and airborne early warning aircraft, soldier training systems, rifles, land vehicle and aircraft self-protection systems, air traffic management systems and radars.

Sudan:  Sudan may soon get a new foreign facility as well. Ukrainian aircraft manufacturer Antonov has announced that it has renewed interest in establishing a maintenance, repair and overhaul base at the Safat Aviation Complex in Khartoum.  Sudanese President Omar al Bashir said the base would allow Antonov to pursue contracts from all across Africa. Potential customers include most African and Middle Eastern air forces which have a large number of Antonov aircraft which frequently  break down due to lack of service.

But Bashir also said that no deal would be signed unless Antonov agreed to service Sudan’s large fleets of civil and military Antonov-built aircraft inside the country. The Sudanese Air Force, which operates at least 18 Antonov jets, including An-12s, An-26s and An-30/32s, ordered five more last year.

Mozambique:  In early March, US firm DynCorp International, rolled out the first 16 armoured personnel carriers from its new Mozambican factory. The company, which has a partnership with local automotive manufacturer OTT Technologies Mozambique,  a subsidiary of South African OTT Technologies, received an order for 115 armoured personnel carriers from the US State Department under its African Peacekeeping Program. The Puma M36 4x4 vehicles will go to seven West African armies participating in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, said DynCorp spokeswoman, Ashley Burke.

Nigeria.  Nigeria will continue to be among the most lucrative African defence markets, with demand expected to grow 12,6 percent over the next four years, according to a report by market analyst firm Strategic Defence Intelligence, “Future of the MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) Defence Industry - Market Attractiveness, Landscape and Forecast 2015-2019.”  Nigeria is battling radical Islamic group Boko Haram and maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.  South African firm DCD Mobility already has a foot in the door by supplying the Nigerian police with its products and the company is in the process of establishing partnerships to set op manufacturing and maintenance facilities in Nigeria.

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