African defense companies say they can fill a gap to supply the United Nations with goods and services to support missions on the continent and beyond.
Sandile Ndlovu, CEO of the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association Export Council, said the U.N. spends billions annually on goods and services that can be provided by companies on the continent. There might be a particular need for air charters since the war in Ukraine has prompted calls for the U.N. to cancel its contracts with Russian aviation companies.
“The majority of U.N. Peacekeeping Missions are in Africa — this then should ideally be placing African-based companies in a prime position to benefit from these opportunities,” Ndlovu said. “But this has not always been the case.”
Ndlovu and others attended a U.N. Procurement Summit on June 24, 2022, at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria, where they hoped for information and connections that would lead to business opportunities.
For its part, the U.N. has expressed interest in doing more business with African suppliers. Christian Saunders, U.N. assistant secretary-general for supply chain management, said U.N. spending on peacekeeping goods and services totals $6 billion per year.
“We buy thousands of different things every year,” he said. “We think the business community in South Africa has much more to offer. We buy everything from foodstuffs to transportation, aviation services, fuel.”
He said South African companies receive about $40 million per year in contracts, but there is room for growth. “We would really like to explain U.N. procurement opportunities to South African businesses and see if we can have a match and do more business with them in the future.”