Government is looking at reducing the dependency of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on direct funding by the State, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
He was delivering the opening address for the Africa Aerospace and Defence 2018 exhibition at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria.
"Several ideas are being explored to modernise the funding model of defence and reduce its dependency on the fiscus," he said. "The leveraging of the economic value of many types of assets of the defence force is under development, alongside improvements in the efficiency of the defence force and the rejuvenation of the defence human resources component."
This was necessary because govenment had to prioritise socioeconomic objectives, especially those that would provide the country's young people with the "best possible future". He pointed out that the national economy was "under pressure" and that the fiscus possessed only finite resources.
"The SANDF acknowledges [and] is adapting to this economic reality," he pointed out. "Prioritisation within the implementation of our Defence Review focuses on the core roles of the defence force."
Regarding the country's defence industry, the President assured that "South Africa is looking after" it. This was for both security and developmental requirements. "It is a national asset that has value for many departments and agencies of government."
"It innovates products for the greater economy, such as systems that improve the safety of railway lines or improve the efficiency of shark nets," he highlighted. "The common TV decoder in widespread use in South Africa is based on the intellectual property from a military technology project."
He noted that the local defence industry comprised about 120 companies, directly employing some 15 000 people. "It is an incubator of our scarce skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."
Ramaphosa also observed that engineers in the local defence industry were also exposed to the production systems and management procedures of major global industry players. This resulted in these engineers becoming assets for the wider South African economy.