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US Diplomats at SOFEX Highlight Defense Industry Prospects in Middle East

May 10, 2016 (Photo Credit: Jordan Pix, Getty Images)

 

AMMAN, Jordan — Commercial officers from the US embassy in Jordan highlighted on Tuesday what’s on the wish lists of Middle Eastern and North African countries when it comes to defense equipment.

Given the political and security state of affairs in the region, it should come as no surprise that all countries are hungry for border and building security systems that include surveillance, bomb detection and other capabilities that would help detect and defuse threats to their populations.

“The safety and security sector is growing across North Africa and Levant,” Cherine Maher, the US Embassy in Jordan’s head of regional safety and security, said at the biennial Special Operations Forces Exhibition. “The market is continuously growing because of the political situation and stability and securing and protecting civilians.”

High security is noticeable for anyone who has traveled to Jordan, and is one of the reasons the country has remained a pocket of relative peace in a very unstable region. All hotels, for instance, have X-ray machines, metal detectors and potential pat-downs, which guests must go through each time they enter. Cars are inspected with detectors whenever they pull up to large buildings.

“We are very high on the safety and security market in Jordan,” Geoffrey Bogart, a commercial officer at the US Embassy said. “Jordan needs your help in military and the private sector side,” he said to industry at SOFEX.

Bogart said there is an abundance of market prospects for US companies to do business in Jordan, including in border security, cyber security, command and control centers, telecommunications equipment, military vehicles, artillery, tactical equipment, bomb and metal detectors, and closed circuit television (CCTV) and access control.

Egypt’s safety and security market is also “flourishing,” according to Maher, with an expectation it will grow by 15 to 20 percent during the next few years. Overall imports in the sector were estimated at $450 million in 2015, an amount that only accounts for non-government purchases and not foreign military sales contracts, which is executed through a different budget, she said.

“Egypt is facing a lot of challenges especially in terms of border control and whether it’s from the West or the East or the North or the South, so the main project that is going on is border and perimeter control,” Maher said, which means the country really wants bomb detection, jammers and improvised explosive device diffusers.

Morocco, which has a “fairly large” defense market, is looking for defense aviation devices and heavy equipment, Maher said.

US competition in Morocco is pretty fierce as the country tends to like to do business with France due to its strategic location and historical ties, according to Maher. Morocco also has Russian submarines.

But that doesn’t mean the US doesn’t have a leg up in some cases, Maher said, noting US products in aviation devices and heavy equipment are in high demand.

Maher said Iraq has a particularly “dynamic” market valued in 2014 at about $7.6 billion, which is about 3.44 percent of its GDP. With the ongoing war against the Islamic State group, it is anticipated that Iraq will soon spend around $19 billion, which would make up about 18 to 20 percent of its GDP.

“The unique aspect” of the defense market in Iraq is that more than 50 percent of it is made up of US products. But Iraq also buys from Europe, Russia and Iran.

Like all the other countries in the region, Iraq is investing heavily in safety and security equipment, and also wants personal protective gear and security systems for residential and commercial buildings, according to Maher.

There is continuous growth in Tunisia’s defense market, Maher said. Tunisia plussed up its security forces budget in 2016 due to growing terrorist threats in the region. The country wants to build up its force capacity to deter regional threats, strengthen defensive capabilities and support counterterrorism operations.

The best prospects for the US to do business is in electronic surveillance, CCTV systems and protective apparel. Compared to other countries in the region, this equipment is in particularly high demand, Maher noted.

In Tunisia, there is continuous competition between the US and European firms, Maher said, but the US does have an edge when it comes to technology, especially with scanning equipment.

The current instability in Libya has led to challenges for US firms, according to Maher; however, US companies’ products are in high demand there. “The trick is how to enter the market, who to sell to, and making sure of export license,” she said, adding some products that had been permitted to be sold to Libya now have restrictions.

Libya wants equipment that will enhance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; air and seaport security, communication systems; and tools for customs inspections.

Lebanon is interested in border security; however, it’s particularly interested in securing public buildings and providing for civilian protection due to ongoing insecurity in some towns and cities near Beirut, Maher said.

Access control, CCTV, and signaling equipment are all desired in Lebanon as well as metal detectors and X-ray machines, she added.

Palestine’s market is small but there’s still business to be done in surveillance and security equipment. The current market is dominated by US, Europe and East Asia companies.

The demand for security in buildings is growing due to a construction boom, according to Maher. Palestine wants CCTV systems, alarm and fire systems, access control systems, security barriers and protective apparel.

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