UN Register of Conventional Arms sheds light on African arms imports


The United Nations (UN) General Assembly recently released a report on conventional arms trades that provides new data on exports to African countries, which in 2018 acquired thousands of small arms as well as armoured vehicles, aircraft and artillery systems.

The July 2019 report contains information received from member states (member states of the UN) on the export and import of conventional arms covered by the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, as well as information on their international transfers of small arms and light weapons. The report covers data from the 2018 calendar year.

South Africa (SA), being the only African member state to supply information in the report, submitted data on exports as well as imports. In terms of imports, South Africa imported one armoured combat vehicle from Finland and four large-calibre artillery systems from Kenya. The Finnish vehicle was an early production Badger infantry combat vehicle.

Belarus reported exporting a substantial amount of hardware to Africa, including four BTR-70 armoured combat vehicles to Côte d’Ivoire through the Russian Federation. Belarus also reported exporting various large-calibre artillery systems to Angola, including six 152 mm 2S3 SP howitzers, 20 122 mm 2S1 SP howitzers, four 122 mm BM-21 multiple launch rocket system and four 9P140 multiple launch rocket systems. Belarus also exported an Мi-24P attack helicopter to Uganda.

In 2018 Bulgaria exported two An-26 transport aircraft to Côte d’Ivoire, two L-39 training aircraft without armament to Uganda and one Mi-24 attack helicopter and two 23 mm anti-aircraft guns to Burkina Faso. Bulgaria also exported 358 assault rifles to Cameroon, 120 assault rifles and 15 light machine guns to the Central African Republic (CAR) and 600 assault rifles to Chad. In terms of heavy machine guns, in 2018 Bulgaria exported 138 to Algeria, three to Burkina Faso and five to Côte d’Ivoire. Bulgaria also exported 40 recoilless rifles to Algeria and 65 to Rwanda.

Canada exported one armoured combat vehicle to Djibouti and two to Morocco. 250 assault rifles were exported to Botswana and four hand-held under-barrel grenade launchers to South Africa.

Czechia exported mostly small arms to African countries in 2018, although it did provide eight large-calibre artillery systems to Uganda. It supplied 113 revolvers and self-loading pistols to Ghana, 386 to Nigeria, 393 to Rwanda, three to Senegal, two to SA as well as 461 rifles and carbines to SA. Czechia also exported ten sub-machine guns to Burkina Faso, 101 to Egypt, two to Kenya, one to Rwanda and two to Senegal. In terms of assault rifles, Czechia exported 176 to Egypt, 1000 to Niger, 3250 to Nigeria, two to Senegal and 33 Zambia. Czechia also exported 20 heavy machine guns to Kenya and 135 to Nigeria.

Italy’s main 2018 exports were also small arms and included 1 060 sub-machine guns to Algeria, 450 to Djibouti and 206 to Morocco. In the report, Italy stated in the calendar year of 2017, it exported four small arms to Angola, 300 to Côte d’Ivoire, 2 500 to Kenya, 5494 to Morocco and 5401 to SA and two light weapons to Algeria.

Lithuania in 2018 exported 16 armoured combat vehicles with missile launchers to Angola. These are believed to be upgraded SA-6 surface-to-air missile systems.

Poland exported 100 revolvers and self-loading pistols and 1 000 rifles and carbines to Nigeria. These are most likely Beryl assault rifles, which Nigeria has been ordering for a number of years. Nigeria also last year announced plans to manufacture the Beryl domestically.

Portugal exported hundreds of small arms to African nations in 2018, including 55 revolvers and self-loading pistols to Angola, 567 to Cabo Verde, four to Mozambique and eight to Sao Tome and Principe. Regarding rifles and carbines, Portugal exported 38 to Angola, four to Cabo Verde as well as 159 sub-machine guns, three firearms to Mozambique, six to Sao Tome and Principe, 60 to SA and 38 to Zambia.

Romania exported 1 000 7.62 mm assault rifles and 50 7.62 mm light machine guns to Cameroon.

Russia exported six combat aircraft to Angola and two Mi-35 attack helicopters to Nigeria. The Angolan aircraft are most likely upgraded Su-30K Flanker fighters – the last of 12 on order had been delivered by the second quarter of 2019.

Turkey’s defence industry was active in 2018, exporting 40 wheeled armoured personnel carriers to Burkina Faso, 20 to Chad, three to Ghana, six to Mauritania and 25 to Senegal. It is believed that most of these were Otokar Cobras. Turkey also exported 183 7.65 mm handguns and 400 semi-automatic pistols to Burkina Faso, 100 semi-automatic small and light pistols to Cameroon, six 9 mm handguns to Ghana, 100 9×19 mm handguns and 30 semi-automatic pistols to Kenya, 180 semi-automatic pistols to Mozambique, 30 semi-automatic pistols to Nigeria, and 719 9 mm handguns, two 45 calibre Zig M1911s and 4 930 semi-automatic small and light pistols to South Africa. Zambia imported 25 9×19 mm handguns and 110 semi-automatic small and light pistols from Turkey and Zimbabwe imported 77 9×19 mm handguns and 20 semi-automatic pistols. Turkey exported 100 9 mm ZIG 14s to Ethiopia and 17 9 mm Zigana M16s to SA. Turkey also exported ten MP5 MTS A3 submachine guns to the DRC and 208 assault rifles to Senegal.

The United Kingdom (UK) exported mainly small arms to Africa in 2018, according to the UN report, including one pistol to Egypt, 30 pistols to Kenya and 37 pistols to SA. The UK also exported one sporting rifle to Angola, one rifle, 24 shotguns and three sporting rifles to Botswana, two sporting rifles to Ghana, one sporting rifle to Malawi, two sporting rifles to Namibia, and 25 rifles, 55 sporting rifles and 609 sniper rifles to South Africa and 25 sporting rifles to Zambia. It also exported four assault rifles to Egypt, 26 to Mauritius and 85 to SA. 613 heavy machine guns were exported to Egypt and two to Seychelles. Three hand-held under-barrel grenade launchers were imported by South Africa.

Other miscellaneous exports included Spain sending 18 portable anti-tank guns to Kenya and Sweden exporting an undisclosed number of 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles to South Africa. In 2017, the Ukraine exported nine R-27 air-to-air missiles to Algeria.

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms report relies on information given by member states and as not all members submitted reports for 2018, the Register does is not a complete list of arms bought and sold around the world. Nevertheless, it does provide a substantial amount of information on arms sold to African countries.