PRETORIA - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday paid tribute to South Africa's massive defence industry for creating much needed jobs and bringing in foreign currency.
"For both security and developmental reasons, South Africa is looking after its defence industry, which is not only viewed as a department of defence asset. It is a national asset that has value for many departments and agencies of government," said Ramaphosa as he officially opened the 10th Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria.
"It [the defence industry] innovates products for the greater economy, such as systems that improve the safety of railway lines or improve the efficiency of shark nets. The common TV decoder in widespread use in South Africa is based on the intellectual property from a military technology project."
Ramaphosa said the industry is an "important employer" providing 15,000 direct jobs in 120 companies.
"It is an incubator of our scarce skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The industry’s engineers are exposed to production and management practices of the major international players. They thus become assets for the broad economy," he said.
"Some of our aircraft-related businesses are expanding in a highly competitive environment as suppliers to the biggest players in the global aircraft industry. The industry is a steady earner of foreign exchange by delivering to the world leading products such as the Husky vehicle for detecting improvised explosive devices."
He added that there are many initiatives to maximise the value of the defence industry.
"A defence industry fund was launched in June this year as a funding mechanism for industry. Foreign importers know the value of South African defence products. South Africa is exporting to 88 countries across the world," said Ramaphosa.
"Government intends to support the industry to become export driven on the back of international investment, by having a policy stance favouring international joint ventures with local industry. As a defence industry investment destination, South Africa combines many unique factors."
The Waterkloof Air Force Base was a hive of activity on Wednesday, as the AAD2018 kicked off with major activities in the skies.
The Air Force of Zimbabwe, under the leadership of Air Marshal Elson Moyo, Commander of Air Force of Zimbabwe, was one of numerous militaries and defence companies showcasing their capabilities.
- African News Agency (ANA)