UK wants African SMEs to bid for UK defence work

South Africans could see a boost to opportunities to sell to the UK defence industry, and UK small and medium size businesses are also being encouraged to look to Africa, according to the regional director of the UK’s Trade & Investment department, (UKTI).

Sophie Lane, the regional director covering Africa, Europe and the Middle East for the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) was at AAD and said the UK was keen to develop two-way partnerships.

“The idea is getting a lot of ministerial support. We have opened up the information so that African companies can get accredited to access the bulletins that list the tenders. This is now free of charge to those companies. Accreditation can be requested online at,” said Lane.

“Ideally we would hope that we can link South African companies to UK SMEs as well. Industrial cooperation means that lessons can be learned and different competencies can be explored.”

“There are things that the UK firms are doing that can have direct applications to African operations – and at the same time there are lots of things happening in South Africa that would benefit the knowledge and markets in the UK.”

At a government to government level, greater cooperation is also on the cards.

“We went through a strategic defence review and now South Africa has its review. There are lessons to be learned. I think there are many ways we can build capability and also each grow our businesses.”

Lane said her organisation was looking for a couple of things: to build the UK’s understanding and relationship with the South African military and government, and get an understanding of the capability requirements of the 2014 Defence Review so the UK defence industry can work out what it can offer towards that.

“There’s opportunity for British industry at a time when South Africa is talking about increasing defence spending. We are looking for partnerships with South African industry regionally and locally. We want South Africa to be a partner, not just a supplier.”

Lane emphasised that the UK is interested in both the defence and security sectors. UK companies with specialities in border and maritime security, cyber security and counter poaching have a lot to offer South Africa, as some of their capabilities are unique and can be integrated into South African products, she said. She noted that some of these are big growth areas for the United Kingdom, which is putting a lot of energy and effort into developing them.

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