South Africa’s decision to join Brazil, Russia, India, China in the Brics group of emerging markets opens new opportunities for international expansion and co-operation to fast-growing, mid-cap local companies in the technology sector, according to Ivor Ichikowitz, the executive chairman of Sandton-based defence and aerospace group Paramount.

South Africa’s strategic position as the gateway to Africa, with the continent emerging as “the global powerhouse of the future”, made its membership of Brics “good business sense for all concerned”.

South Africa’s formal membership of Brics would give African coumpany, particularly in high-growth technology sectors such as defence and aerospace, access to new economies of scale.

Brics membership would open new doors to technology transfer, investment and markets.

“There is huge potential for collaboration, helping to diversify economies and stimulate regional economic integration. South Africa sits in the driving seat to promote economic integration across Africa,” Ichikowitz said.

“Brics membership will bring a welcome expansion in co-operative initiatives – technology sharing, joint manufacturing and marketing, exchange programmes for skills training and combined research projects, which South Africa can foster with the Brics nations.”

This week senior Paramount executives were in Rio de Janeiro where two of the company’s security vehicles are on show at LAAD, South America’s biggest defence exhibition. The company says the Maverick is designed for use by “police and other law enforcement organisations”, and the Marauder is an advanced mine-protected armoured vehicle,

Paramount chief executive John Craig said both vehicles would shortly begin trials by “some of the most important countries in South America”, with a procurement decision expected within months.

The trials were part of his company’s “aggressive expansion drive into the region. We expect the South American market for armoured vehicles to grow steadily over the next five years. We are seeing growing defence expenditure across the region.”

Craig said the Paramount group, which had global manufacturing facilities and joint ventures with selected partners in Africa, Europe, Asia and “elsewhere around the world” would be prepared to open manufacturing operations in South American countries ordering its products.

Meanwhile the SANDF is buying armoured cars made in Finland by Patria, although a similar vehicle is made by BAE Systems subsidiary Land Systems South Africa in Benoni. The company has pointed out that its vehicle – which is in use by the US army – would be cheaper to obtain and would provide jobs in South Africa, not only in its own factory but for local suppliers of components as well.

Land Systems SA spokeswoman Natasha Pheiffer said the SANDF had approached Denel, which recommended the Patria vehicle. Apart from selling its RG41 armoured car to the US, the firm exports it to Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Finland. - Audrey D’Angelo