The South African Aerospace Maritime and Defence and Export Council (SAMDEC) On Africa Day, 2021, organised an Aerospace and Defence Masterplan webinar. The webinar was themed; Restoring and developing the South African aerospace and defence industry. South Africa’s Secretary of Defence; Sonto Kudjoe, delivered the Keynote address.
In the address, the Secretary of Defence stressed the need for a healthy and robust defence force amidst a declining budget defence allocation. According to her, one of the most critical initiatives to revive and grow the South African aerospace and defence industry is the Aerospace and Defence Masterplan. The Masterplan, which was published last year, in Sonto Kudjoe’s words, “provides clear guidelines on how we can explore ways to unlock South Africa’s aerospace and defence potential. The Masterplan is one of the most important documents for the aerospace and defence sector to have been formulated in decades and will have far-reaching implications for its rejuvenation.”
Through various pillars, the Masterplan developed several clear goals and plans for stabilising and developing the South African aerospace and defence industries, from doubling exports to establishing the Centurion Aerospace Village.
The Masterplan recognises opportunities that the local space sector holds for local companies, notably small satellite design, manufacture and launch, and payload development. According to it, there is a surge in demand for satellites and linked onboard technology, serving the increasing demand for access to services. The implication is thus a massive demand for the manufacture and launch of constellations of smaller satellites, combined with the ability to download real-time data not available on land. Summarily, vital opportunities for the South African space industry lie in the design, manufacture, testing and launch of small satellites. The potential is also existent in satellite payloads for data acquisition and the download, manipulation and application of the data for South Africa.
Perhaps, in recognition of these opportunities, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, in June 2020, the funding of a South African Space Infrastructure Hub. The South African authority intends to stimulate space products and services by investing R3.1 billion (USD 224 Million) into the Space Innovation Hub. The Hub will unlock South African capacity to manufacture and provide downstream services and increase South African participation in this sub-segment. The President emphasised that the South African government was prioritising proposals that would have a positive impact on the economic and social recovery of the state, noting that the country has an enormous capacity for infrastructure development, particularly in the ICT sector.
The keynote address concluded that this, and other pillars of The Masterplan were ambitious goals to increase local production of selected products by 50% from current baseline levels by the end of 2024; improve export sales by 100% from the current baseline by the end of 2022; increase formal employment from current levels by 50% by the end of 2025; retain advanced skills in the ecosystem and double the participation of black and women participants in the industry from the current baseline by the end of 2022.
The full keynote address is available here.