A UK-based military hardware manufacturer will open a Sh3.5 billion plant in Mombasa to capture the growing arms race in Eastern Africa as well as target peace-keeping missions.
Osprea Logistics has started construction of the plant following approval from the Kenya Investments Authority to assemble armoured cars and military trucks under the Mamba brand â€” which is commonly used by Africa Union peacekeepers, private contractors in Iraq and several African countries.
This will be the first armoured vehicle manufacturer in the region and the company is targeting regional governments and peacekeeping missions in Congo, Sudan and Somalia, which are emerging as a fertile markets for military hardware.
â€œOsprea plans its first-year production of Mamba Mk5â€™s to be over 100 vehicles, which can translate to work for over 200 people,â€ said Salih Brandt, the chairman of Osprea Logistics in an email response to the Business Daily.
â€œKenya is strategically located and offers great access to the rest of Africa compared to South Africa where Ospreraâ€™s other manufacturing plant is.â€
Mamba is a South-African made armoured personnel carrier that offers protection against small arms fire and land mines.
Powered by a Mercedes Benz engine, it is suited for a rough terrain and can carry up to 10 passengers plus the driver.
This has made it a favourite for military operations in remote zones and it became the face of the Iraq war following increased use by private security contractors.
Rising threats of terrorism, cross-border raids and internal conflicts in East Africa have seen countries increase their military budgets.
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have together increased their defense spending to Sh87 billion last year from Sh59 billion in 2007, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), an independent research organisation.
The data shows that Kenyaâ€™s spending at Sh45.8 billion was far much higher than that of Uganda, which had a budget of Sh21 billion, and Tanzania whose budget stood at Sh22 billion.
Kenya, last year, ordered 67 US-made heavy truck diesel engines from South Africa, 37 of which have so far been delivered at an undisclosed cost.
Uganda also showed the highest number of military equipment imports among EAC member countries.
BurundiÂ depicted one of the highest military budgets on the continent according to Sipri making the region a good market for an arms manufacturer.
The regionâ€™s defense forces buy their armoured cars and trucks mainly from Russia and South Africa.
â€œThere is a tangible move world-wide towards â€˜smart investingâ€™ in defence budgets, with an emphasis on domestic procurement and industry in order to capture a dual benefit of domestic investing as well as platform efficiency,â€ says Mr Brandt.
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