Dont ignore Africa

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The humanitarian disaster and advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Northern Iraq have dominated the headlines in the last week or so alongside the Israeli intervention in Gaza. But these have taken the focus off of Africa where there have been some significant developments.

Somalian president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced a push by African Union and Somali government forces to remove the al-Shabaab militant group from its remaining strongholds in the country. Despite continuing attacks by the group in Mogadishu it is thought that this latest effort – Operation Indian Ocean – will allow the government to administer control over most of the country for the first time in decades.

In Libya levels of fighting have increased in recent weeks resulting in the evacuation of foreign nationals and in the Sahel region in the north of Mali insurgent groups are stubbornly resisting the UN and French efforts to remove them. France and the UN are also struggling to contain ethnic violence in the Central African Republic where the President and Cabinet have just left office.

However, in July France initiated a new counter terror mission: Operation Barkhane, to test its capabilities in the region on the back of its deployment to Mali under Operation Serval. Barkhane will include some force elements from Serval as part of an effort to bolster regional cooperation stretching from the Atlantic coast and across the Sahel. A force of about 3,000 troops will be commanded from the N’Djamena, the capital of Chad and it will include about 20 helicopters such as Gazelles, Pumas and Cougars; 200 armoured vehicles – likely to be VBCIs, VABs, and ERC 90s; 10 transport aircraft; six Mirage or Rafale fighter aircraft; and three Harfang UAS.

Using other bases across the region Operation Barkhane is expected to include the participation of forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. France sees security in the Sahel region as directly linked to its own national security, feelings shared by the United States which, under AFRICOM, has been running the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) for some years that includes military-to-military cooperation with Sahel states as well as targeted diplomatic efforts.

As these counter-terrorist efforts start to gather steam for industry attention is focussed on the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in South Africa. As one of the continent’s most modern military powers, South Africa has some serious decisions to take about what role it wants to play in contributing to security in Africa and if it will pay for it. Procurement across Africa keenly reflects immediate security concerns that are typical to each area but there is the recognition among governments that insurgent groups aiming to de-stabilize various states are now much better armed than in years past and it requires a more formidable and better equipped national force to oppose them and keep state authority in place.

Following the release of the South African Defence Review 2014 in March there will be a focus on long-term equipment plans and building a stronger relationship with industry and the development of sovereign capabilities in support, upgrade and modernisation of equipment that includes the sustained manufacturing of munitions, spares and other key equipment and the ability to do system integration. The SADR also called for equipment designed for operating in African conditions including tactical vehicles, artillery, medical capabilities.

Companies will have to be more than half owned and run by South Africans to qualify to compete for the most high-end sovereign projects. Those that are more than a quarter owned and run can qualify for lower level sovereign projects and only considered after South African companies. If a foreign company is based in South Africa then it will only be allowed to compete for large projects if it can show it can offer uninterrupted through-life support. Other firms such as local branches of foreign companies can go for standard projects as long as they can show a long-term commitment to South Africa, whilst joint ventures can go for any project as long as the intellectual property is secure.

With its expected acquisition of BAE Systems LSSA, Denel – as South Africa’s primary main state-owned defence company – is looking ahead to what it can do in this landscape and is likely to take on the most sensitive procurement projects. However it is also able to partner with and sub-contract private industry and this is where the opportunities lay for other local or international industrial players. South Africa is keen to engage experienced international defence firms but it will have to outline what capability packages it will fund properly to give industry confidence to invest in the future.

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