African arms imports decreasing – SIPRI

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African nations have imported fewer arms over the last decade, with imports decreasing by 6.5%, according to new research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Although imports as a whole are down, North African nations have increased defence spending.

In a new report published on 11 March entitled ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2018,’ SIPRI noted that between 2009–13 and 2014–18, arms imports by African states decreased by 6.5%.

Most spending was in North Africa, with Algeria accounting for 56% of African arms imports, Morocco for 15% and Nigeria for 4.8%. The four countries in North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) accounted for 75% of African arms imports. Their arms imports increased by 20% between 2009–13 and 2014–18.

States in sub-Saharan Africa received 25% of total African imports in 2014–18. Their arms imports decreased by 45% between 2009–13 and 2014–18. The top five arms importers in sub-Saharan Africa were Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, Cameroon and Senegal. Together, they accounted for 56% of arms imports to the subregion.

In terms of suppliers, SIPRI stated that in 2014–18 Russia accounted for 49% of total arms imports to North Africa, the USA for 15%, China for 10%, France for 7.8% and Germany for 7.7%. Russia accounted for 66% of Algerian arms imports in 2014–18, compared with 90% in 2009–13. Algeria’s other chief arms suppliers in 2014–18 were China (13%) and Germany (10%). The USA (62%) and France (36%) were the main suppliers of arms to Morocco in 2014–18.

Russia accounted for 28% of arms exports to sub-Saharan Africa in 2014–18, China for 24%, Ukraine for 8.3%, the USA for 7.1% and France for 6.1%. In 2009–13 Ukraine was the largest supplier to sub-Saharan Africa; however, its arms exports to the region fell by 79% between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Nigeria, the largest arms importer in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014–18, received 35% of its arms imports from Russia, 21% from China and 15% from the USA.



Although many states in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by armed conflict and some receive foreign military aid, the volume of major arms imported by those states is relatively small, SIPRI stated. This is illustrated by the case of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, which in 2017 created the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) Joint Force to undertake collective military operations against militant groups, such as Boko Haram. In 2014–18 the combined arms imports of the G5 Sahel states accounted for 0.2 % of the global total. In that period they received 26 military aircraft—which included five light combat aircraft and two combat helicopters—and 179 light armoured vehicles.

Global trends

Internationally, SIPRI stated in its report that the volume of international transfers of major arms in 2014–18 was 7.8% higher than in 2009–13 and 23% higher than in 2004–2008.

The five largest exporters in 2014–18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China. Together, they accounted for 75% of the total volume of arms exports in 2014–18. The flow of arms increased to the Middle East between 2009–13 and 2014–18, while there was a decrease in flows to all other regions.

The gap between the USA and other arms exporters widens

US arms exports grew by 29% between 2009–13 and 2014–18, and the US share of total global exports rose from 30% to 36%. The gap between the top two arms-exporting states also increased: US exports of major arms were 75% higher than Russia’s in 2014–18, while they were only 12% higher in 2009–13. More than half (52%) of US arms exports went to the Middle East in 2014–18.

“The USA has further solidified its position as the world’s leading arms supplier,” said Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. “The USA exported arms to at least 98 countries in the past five years; these deliveries often included advanced weapons such as combat aircraft, short-range cruise and ballistic missiles, and large numbers of guided bombs.”

Arms exports by Russia decreased by 17% between 2009–13 and 2014–18, in particular due to the reduction in arms imports by India and Venezuela. Between 2009–13 and 2014–18 France increased its arms exports by 43% and Germany by 13%. The combined arms exports of European Union member states accounted for 27% of global arms exports in 2014–18.

A small number of countries outside Europe and North America are large arms exporters. China was the fifth largest arms exporter in 2014–18. Whereas Chinese arms exports rose by 195% between 2004–2008 and 2009–13, they increased by only 2.7% between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Israeli, South Korean and Turkish arms exports increased substantially – 60%, 94% and 170%, respectively – between 2009–13 and 2014–18.

Middle Eastern arms imports almost double in the past five years

Arms imports by states in the Middle East increased by 87% between 2009–13 and 2014–18 and accounted for 35% of global arms imports in 2014–18. Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer in 2014–18, with an increase of 192% compared with 2009–13. Arms imports by Egypt, the third largest arms importer in 2014–18, tripled (206%) between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Arms imports by Israel (354%), Qatar (225%) and Iraq (139%) also rose between 2009–13 and 2014–18. However, Syria’s arms imports fell by 87%.

“Weapons from the USA, the United Kingdom and France are in high demand in the Gulf region, where conflicts and tensions are rife,” said Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. “Russia, France and Germany dramatically increased their arms sales to Egypt in the past five years.”

Asia and Oceania remains the largest importer region

States in Asia and Oceania received 40% of global arms imports in 2014–18, but there was a decrease of 6.7% compared with 2009–13. The top five arms importers in the region were India, Australia, China, South Korea and Vietnam.

Australia became the world’s fourth largest arms importer in 2014–18 after its arms imports increased by 37% compared with 2009–13. Indian arms imports decreased by 24% between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Russia accounted for 58% of India’s arms imports in 2014–18. Chinese arms imports decreased, but it was still the world’s sixth largest arms importer in 2014–18.

“India has ordered a large number of major arms from foreign suppliers; however, deliveries are severely delayed in many cases,” said Siemon T. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. “In contrast, Chinese arms imports decreased because China has been more successful in designing and producing its own modern weaponry.”