Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The African Arms Trade

China is now the world’s third biggest arms exporter after the US and Russia according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). American arms exports accounted for 31 per cent for all exports during the period.  Sudan, Morocco and Algeria are China's main clients in Africa.

China has primarily sold relatively low end and low technology type of equipment to a whole range of African countries. It involves armored vehicles; the numbers involved are not that high, it also involves a few tanks here and there and the cheapest simplest combat aircraft available on the market. It's true that Chinese weapons do play an important role. But there are of course plenty of other suppliers that are willing to supply a range of countries in the region and those weapons can at times fuel conflict and military coup d'etats. It's not just China involved, there are several Western European nations, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and others.

Sudan has long been a recipient of arms from China, Nigeria has bought quantities of weapons too and recently Tanzania has invested in Chinese arms. Namibia and Cameroon have bought arms in smaller numbers so it is really spread throughout the continent. It's important to mention Morocco and Algeria - which have larger defense budgets than other African countries – there China has in the last five years found markets for its arms and those are probably the most important markets for Chinese arms in Africa right now.

Research tells us that China exports arms to a wide variety of countries. Yes, it does abide by United Nations arms embargoes which of course are always supported by China. China has a veto against those (embargoes) so if it doesn't want them, they can say no and it won't happen. So they do abide by these embargoes but still they are quiet willing to supply to almost all countries. What we also see is that sometimes some questions can be raised for example we saw last year that China supplied weapons to South Sudan while at the same time tried to be a peace broker in the ongoing conflict. Another example is that there is an arms embargo to Darfur within Sudan and at times China is still willing to supply weapons to Sudan in the knowledge that Sudan will immediately transfer those weapons to Darfur which is against the United Nations Security Council resolution. So they do live up to the international laws but there are occasions where one can question their behavior in this particular regard.

China does play an important role as a total in percentage. It also plays an important role because it is willing to supply to a wide variety of countries more than other countries would do. For instance whereas China is willing to supply to Sudan and Zimbabwe, European countries would not do so. Russia is also an important supplier to a range of African states, Ukraine has supplied a lot of second hand equipment and then a number of European countries which are willing to supply to Algeria, Nigeria, and Angola and the rest.

Morocco is the second largest importer of arms in Africa during the period 2010-2014, the Swedish think tank has said. Arms purchases by Morocco accounted for 26 per cent of the continent’s overall imports between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. Morocco is preceded by Algeria, the largest arms importer in Africa, with 30 per cent of imports and Sudan (6 per cent). Morocco received 1 frigate from France, the country’s first arm supplier, for an estimated 470 million Euros. Morocco’s weapons imports also come from other countries mainly, the United States, Italy and Germany.

Morocco’s neighbor to the east Algeria managed to increase its arms imports by 3 percent between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. Major deliveries to Algeria included 1 helicopter carrier from Italy, the last batch of 48 air defence systems from Russia and an estimated 50 self-propelled guns from China. The report added that Algeria has several major outstanding arms orders. These include orders placed in 2014 for 2 submarines and 42 combat helicopters from Russia and 926 APCs from Germany.

No comments: