With India eyeing the African defence market as a potential area for exports, a defence industry delegation will be visiting Abuja, Nigeria, from March 7 to explore possibilities for business in areas like small arms and ammunition, armoured vehicle, unmanned, telecom equipment and cyber defence.

Headed by Anurag Bajpai, Additional Secretary in Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence (MoD), the delegation’s two-day trip comes at a time when India is in talks with Nigeria for export of single engine Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) LCA is pitted against, among others, Chinese JF-17 ‘Thunder’ as Nigerian Air Force (NAF) seeks to replace its ageing fleet of Chengdu F-7Ni, Alpha Jet, and the MiG-21 fighter jets. F-7Nis are of Chinese origin, manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC), and have recently undergone major refit to extend their life cycle.

Talks with Nigeria

C B Ananthakrishnan, HAL CMD, had told journalists in December that they are in talks with Nigeria on Tejas-LCA, “but it is early days”.

Meanwhile, leading defence PSUs and private companies like HAL, Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bharat Earth Movers Limited, Mazagoan Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Goa Shipyards, Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited, L&T, Bharat Forge and MKU Limited are part of the 33-member delegation visiting Nigeria.

Start-ups like Zen Technologies, Tonbo Imaging India Private Limited, Ikran Aerospace & Technologies Limited, SMPP Private Limited and Big Bang Boom Solutions Private Limited have also been accommodated in the delegation coordinated by Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), the apex body of the Indian defence industry, on behalf of the MoD.

People aware of the talks between the two countries said, Nigerian Ministry of Defence has expressed willingness that Indian defence industries should work in collaboration with Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria to promote bilateral cooperation in the sector. To push deals, said sources, the government is likely to leverage the funding support and historical defence ties with Nigeria as well.

Defence deals

“.. We are having discussions for defence deals worth over $1 billion dollars to boost the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria for achievement 40 per cent self-sufficiency with the cooperation of the Indian government,” Ajuri Ngelale, spokesperson of Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, had told media ahead of G-20 summit last year.

The Indian delegation is also looking at exploring possibilities of inking joint ventures as DICON is aiming at 40 percent self-reliance in defence manufacturing in next three years, said sources in the delegation.

India is eyeing African defence market dominated by Russia and China as it believes that its weapon systems match global quality standards and are competitively priced. With Russia mired in war with Ukraine and China losing global credibility owing to its expansionist design, India believes the geopolitical situation is suitable to occupy space in African defence market.