JOHANNESBURG --- Effective collaboration between companies across South Africa's defence industry and lucrative export markets from Central Asia to Saudi Arabia offer a way out of a crisis in the sector - once a pillar of Africa's most advanced economy - a top industry figure said.
Squeezed global military budgets, domestic economic headwinds and a contracting home market have hit the South African defence industry hard.
But seated in front of a Marauder - a 15-tonne armoured truck that gained a cult following after a civilian version appeared on the British motoring programme Top Gear - Ivor Ichikowitz, chairman of its manufacturer, the Paramount Group, was upbeat.
'The industry is in a state of crisis at the moment. But there's nothing like a good crisis to create opportunity for regrowth,' he told Reuters on the sidelines of an aerospace and defence expo outside Johannesburg.
'The entire industry now has to reinvent itself to be relevant to the rest of the world.'
A United Nations arms embargo imposed on South Africa's apartheid government in 1977 forced it to produce all its own military hardware. And by 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected president in the country's first democratic elections, the industry employed over 100,000 people.
But South Africa's defence spending has steadily declined since, and just 15,000 work in the sector today, a trade association official said last month. (end of excerpt)
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