Israeli military exports to Africa jump 70%

Overall defense exports amounted to $6.5 billion in 2016, an $800 million bump from previous year

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

The Defense Ministry's "Eitan" ("Steadfast") armored personnel carrier. (Dana Shraga, Israeli Ministry of Defense)
The Defense Ministry's "Eitan" ("Steadfast") armored personnel carrier. (Dana Shraga, Israeli Ministry of Defense)

Israel defense exports rose to $6.5 billion in 2016 — an $800 million increase from 2015 — and included a 70% rise in exports to Africa, the defense ministry said Wednesday.

Asia remains the biggest market for Israeli defense exports, with some $2.6 billion in revenue, according to the annual report released Wednesday from the International Defense Cooperation Directorate at the Defense Ministry, SIBAT.

SIBAT Director Michel Ben Baruch said in the statement that the past year had been challenging, yet rather successful. The signing of dozens of significant contracts have allowed Israel to strengthen its foothold in the global defense market, he said.

Ben Baruch noted a global trend of countries coming out of recession and their respective defense budgets.

SIBAT Director Michel Ben Baruch. (Courtesy)

While Asia remains Israel’s largest military technology market, Europe has become a significant client as well, buying a continent-record $1.8 billion in exports. North America followed with $1.3 billion in spending. Latin America contributed $550 million to the annual sum, finishing ahead of Africa’s $275 million.

However, Africa’s 70% increase is significant, as Israel has made diplomatic relations with Africa a priority in the past year, including a historic visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Among the variety of defense deals, improvements to aircraft and aerial systems contributed to 20% of the year’s defense exports; observation and optics equipment made up 18%; missile and air defense systems summed to 15%; ammunition-13%; and intelligence, 8%, the report said.

Some in the defense establishment have attributed the increase in sales, particularly in Europe, as having to do largely with the spike in terror attacks across the continent, the Haaretz daily reported. European security apparatuses are increasingly looking to Israel for help in containing their own respective fights with lone-wolf terror attackers, which have wide-spread in Israel over the past several years.

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