South Africa has an innovative and capable defense industry. They are also exporting their products. But, I am curious about their motivation.

What was the motivation for South Africa to develop its defense sector?

  • 11
    Is the USA really under threat from Canada or Mexico? Does the level of threat justify spending $700 billion on defence? Apr 21, 2018 at 23:15
  • 1
    This is rather opinion based. What is a "real" defence threat. Please clarify. A useful source could be dod.mil.za/documents/defencereview/defence%20review%202015.pdf
    – James K
    Apr 22, 2018 at 6:00
  • 6
    Speculation: diplomatic isolation during the Apartheid era?
    – Golden Cuy
    Apr 22, 2018 at 9:27

2 Answers 2


Under apartheid rule, South Africa was under sanctions from the UN, and could not purchase military equipment from other nations. So they developed their own internal arms industry, to supply their army.

Since that industry was already set up and turning out some first rate weapons, it continued to function under black majority rule as another source of employment and foreign capital.

  • Apartheid is key here - States generally need weapons for self defence and self policing (yes, I know, crass generalisation. Sue me). Add conflict and terrorism (in the non-value judgement sense of the word - private individuals attacking the state physically for political gain) and you have a need for weapons. If nobody will sell you guns, then you make your own. See also: Israel, who despite being a very young state and a virtual pariah for most of that period to their closest neighbours, has come to create some of the most iconic weapons of the modern period (Uzi, Desert Eagle...)
    – Miller86
    Apr 26, 2018 at 15:42
  • 2
    In fact, Israel played a substantial role in SA's armaments industry, and was one of their original customers, especially for the excellent Gerald Bull designed artillery. Supposedly, both developed nuclear weapons as a joint effort, and tested one in the ocean south of SA... with SA's nuclear bombs being moved to Israel before the fall of the white government by prior agreement. Oh, and the Desert Eagle was designed in the US... IMI was the only company that would build it.
    – tj1000
    Apr 28, 2018 at 5:11

For defence from enemies of the state both foreign and domestic.

Africa as a whole is full of unstable countries and civil war is a real threat so it makes sense to have a strong military that can deal with civil unrest and protect their borders from trouble from nearby states

Also, exporting products means money coming into the country that improves the revenue stream of the government

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