On Thursday, 23 March 2023, the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) hosted a virtual industry day to develop South African aerospace and defence industry. AISI is a programme of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition managed by the CSIR. Through the programme, Small Micro Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) and non-SMMEs are supported to improve, certify or test their offerings to open up local and international markets. The event comprised presentations by AISI beneficiaries, and a workshop facilitated by AISI’s Programme Manager, Marié Botha.

AISI Technical Leader Livison Mashoko commenced the event by welcoming all the attendees and emphasising the importance of having regular industry days. “The purpose of today’s event is for us to have an engagement with industry stakeholders and understand the needs of the industry so that we can align AISI’s offerings better to support the industry in the next financial year,” he said.

Over the past 17 years, AISI has played a vital role in supporting the South African local aerospace and defence industries. As such, this virtual industry day created a unique opportunity for AISI to hear directly from stakeholders about the challenges that they have, get feedback about AISI support processes and how the initiative can work with stakeholders to bring solutions within the industry. During the event, AISI beneficiary organisations, Etion Create and LambdaG, reflected on the support that they received and the significant role that the initiative played in making their projects successful.

Etion Create is a manufacturing company that specialises in the design, manufacture, integration and support of advanced technology systems in aerospace and defence. LambdaG is a 51% black-owned SMME that was founded in 2018. Since 2018 AISI has assisted LambdaG in improving its manufacturing capabilities in the development of antenna and radio-frequency components for the aerospace and defence industries, while creating and retaining employment.

Etion Create’s business development manager, Ian Esterhuizen, expressed his gratitude for the support that AISI offered throughout the project, saying, “Working with AISI was a good experience. They were very helpful and understanding and we were grateful that we could at least get this done faster than we had envisaged.”

The stakeholders had a highly interactive conversation about trends and challenges within the industry. Some of the challenges highlighted included how load shedding is affecting production, lack of transformation within the industry, supply chain challenges caused by the shortage of electronic components and challenges with getting certifications and accreditations.

AISI is committed to supporting organisations that require technology support in sectors relating to advanced manufacturing in aeronautics, space and defence. Therefore, its representative encouraged all interested aerospace and defence SMMEs and non-SMMEs to respond to the expression of interest in the Technology-based Supplier Development Programme that was published on 22 March 2023 on the AISI website.