The unmanned rediscovery of Africa

Africa is being rediscovered – but this time it’s not by adventurous sailors, but rather by very experienced salesmen. They come in with airliners, trying to make the continent the next booming market for unmanned air systems (UAS).

African nations have become a major market for UAS, and Israeli manufacturers are making a big effort to increase sales in that part of the world. The potential revenues for the next five years is assessed to be about $500 million.

One Israeli source said that in some African states the demand is for “first level” UAS, while in others the call is for more advanced systems – and more advanced payloads.

Almost all the major Israeli UAS manufacturers have sold their systems in Africa, with many fully operational, or in the process to gain such status.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit Systems and Aeronautics have all sold UAS to Angola, Kenya, Côte d‟Ivoire, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania. These countries are being offered advanced versions, while others evaluate basic models.

The Israeli ministry of defence has recently cleared the IAI Heron for export to some of the African nations.

An Israeli source said on 24 October that the strongholds of the extremist Islam – in Somalia and Sudan – are one of the main reasons for the growing demand for UAS.

Israeli UAS manufacturers have no real competition in the African market, with one source saying: “This is the current situation, but it may change and we try to put our hand on a big chunk of that market.”

Currently, all the major Israeli manufacturers have a presence in Africa that is aimed at signing more contracts .

However, recently South Africa’s Denel Dynamics has established an increased presence in many of the countries that have purchased Israeli-made UAS. The company is offering its Seeker-400 UAS.

Israeli manufacturers still hold an advantage, especially when it comes to supplying a system that can not only fly, but carry different payloads and transfer real-time data to the ground for immediate use.

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