South Africa has attracted a number of international companies dealing in defence technologies, some of which have the largest operation outside of their homeland in the country. Swedish company Saab is one of these companies with over 700 employees in South Africa alone and a strong presence in the African market with offices in South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya. Among its many business areas, Saab is widely known for its aeronautics and avionics systems for military and civilian aircraft. South Africa has become a strategic base for Saab to market its portfolio throughout Africa.

Saab owns Saab Grintek Defence (SGD) in South Africa with African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI) completing a R125 million deal to acquire a 25% plus one share stake. SGD’s expanding staff complement in South Africa continues with orders well into 2020. Trevor Raman, President and CEO of SGD, stated that: “We have built a remarkable organisation by partnering with South African companies and investing in skills and enterprise development, to ensure that our hi-tech business has local access to the specialised skills and services we need to meet our global customers’ needs.”

SGD designs and produces electronic warfare and avionics technology for defence forces across the globe (including Germany, Brazil, and the Middle East), stimulating South African exporting revenues (the South African Department of Trade and Industry named SGD Exporter of the Year in 2013 and 2014). India’s Make in India programme benefited from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between SGD and Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division (Tata Power SED) in July 2016 to convey locally produced South African technology and products to foreign markets. “We are excited about the signing of this MoU as it is our strategy to take South Africa’s indigenous technology and products beyond local markets with well-established expert partners that add value to our supply chain and open new markets. The transfer of technology for production of initial orders for Saab’s global customers has already commenced at Tata Power SED’s facility in Bangalore,” said Trevor Raman

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was present during the signing to promote defence manufacturing in India and create export opportunities for South Africa. Earlier in 2016, SGD and Tata Power SED announced the manufacturing of the Land Electronic Defence System (LEDS) 50 for the Indian market and for export. The system was previously made in South Africa only. The system detects a laser threat in the field and notifies operators when the vehicle has been painted with a laser by opposing forces.


SGD is heavily involved in command, control and communications systems, and sensor technology. Regarding communication, SGD’s TactiCall solution, currently used by the South African Navy and the South African Police Service, ensures seamless communication between different emergency management services, regardless of the radio band, frequency, or hardware used. The system resolves any breakdown in communication when using a variety of devices.


SGD has positioned itself as a major player in South Africa essentially expanding from South Africa’s acquisition of the Gripen fighter in the 1990s. SGD’s Centurion campus is located close to Waterkloof Air Force Base with a variety of its products available for demonstration year-round. The company emphasizes its ability to work closely with clients appealing to rapid defence requirements by innovating new technology according to its client’s needs.

Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

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