n Journal for Contemporary History - South Africa in the international arms trade network (ATN) during national party rule (1948-1994) : a network analysis

Volume 40, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



South Africa is renowned for its arms industry, which was established under apartheid to counter external threats during the Cold War, increasing internal threats from the black majority, and internationally imposed arms embargoes. The country's arms industry developed numerous novel and technologically advanced weapons systems, and the war in Angola meant that these weapons systems were proven in combat. While trade with the rest of the world became increasingly difficult as subsequent embargoes were imposed, the country's perpetual conflicts demanded the import of weapons in any way possible, while the combat-proven nature of South African weapons systems allowed the country to export tried-and-tested weapons systems as well (at least until the late 1980s). This article uses network theory to investigate South Africa's role in the global Arms Trade Network (ATN) from 1948 to 1994, and discusses South Africa's overall role and trading partners. It is shown that, in terms of the trade relations in the ATN, South Africa was a central role player throughout the apartheid years, and that its role changed from importer to exporter in the later years.

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