Israeli defence equipment manufacturers are looking to Africa as their next big market as they seek a share of the continent’s growing defence spending.
Israel currently controls less than one per cent of Africa’s weapons market and is seeking a larger share as an increasingly richer Africa will spend more to meet growing public and private security needs.
Executives in Israel’s defence companies said they are receiving more inquiries from Africa for a range of equipment for defence, police, prisons and intelligence sectors collectively known as homeland security.
Demand for homeland security solutions is rising in Africa as the countries face growing threats from secessionist groups, transnational criminals and religious fundamentalists among others.
African armies, police and prison services are also reforming as the private security industry expands, offering a growing market for security solutions vendors.
“Homeland security spending is growing across the world partly because nations are increasingly facing asymmetrical war from non-state actors. This is expected to drive the growth of the defence market,” said Yaakov Perry, former head of Israel General Security Service, Shin Bet.
In East Africa countries are facing homeland security threats. Kenya is cracking down on the secessionist group Mombasa Republican Council, Uganda is still pursuing the militant group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as Tanzania faces secession threats from Zanzibar while Rwanda and Burundi also have delicate security situations.
Discovery of high value natural resources has also prompted countries to invest more in security as exploration companies also invest in private security to secure their facilities.
Homeland security spending is expected to reach $344.5 billion in 2022 up from $178 billion dollars in 2010, with significant growth in aviation security, communications, data and cyber security and counter terrorism, according to the Israel Export and International Co-operation Institute.
Israel’s arms exports to Africa have been minimal, accounting for less than one per cent of transfers of major weapons to sub-Saharan Africa for the period 2006–10 according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Industry Database.
In the period 2006–10 Israel delivered major weapons to nine sub-Saharan states—Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Seychelles, South Africa and Uganda.
For most of these recipients, imports from Israel made up less than a quarter of their total arms imports, SIPRI added.
Key defence manufacturers eyeing operations in Africa include Mer Systems, a security and communications company, Tar, which sells military and police equipment, 3M Israel that deals with security and protection services, Blue Bird that sells unmanned aerial vehicles and Elbit Systems that offers intelligence and cyber security solutions.