Sunday, 30 January 2011

South African arms supplies to sub-Saharan Africa

Despite efforts by South Africa’s well-developed arms industry and its government to position the country as a key supplier of arms to African countries, exports to sub-Saharan African destinations do not account for a significant share of South African arms exports. The driving force of South African arms exports to sub-Saharan destinations appears to be maximizing turnover for the industry and earnings from the sale of surplus equipment.
Since the end of apartheid in 1994 South Africa has developed export policies, regulations and guidelines aimed at preventing arms exports that could fuel conflict or support human rights abuses. However, doubts persist about the functioning of this system. Like other countries, South Africa still allows questionable arms transfers to zones of conflict and to countries where arms are used in human rights violations. In general, South Africa’s export policy seems to be mainly a matter of abiding by United Nations arms embargoes with few other restrictions.
A positive development in 2010 is that, after several years of not publishing arms export reports, South Africa has returned to a level of public transparency about its arms export policy, which provides some opportunities for parliamentary and public accountability. Hopefully, recent changes in the legislation will not mean a return to opacity in reporting.

Download the Background Paper here.

About the author
Pieter D. Wezeman (Netherlands) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. He rejoined SIPRI in 2006, having previously worked at the institute from 1994 to 2003. From 2003 to 2006 he was a Senior Analyst for the Dutch Ministry of Defence in the field of proliferation of conventional and nuclear weapon technology.

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