Africa arms imports up: SIPRI

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Africa’s share of international major conventional weapons imports increased from 5% in 2001–2005 to 7% in 2006–10. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) adds the Middle East accounted for 17% of imports over the same period, down from 21% in the years 2001–2005.

SIPRI, in a new report on international arms transfers, says Algeria and South Africa were the two largest arms importers in Africa, in the years 2006-10, accounting for 48% and 27% respectively. The third largest recipient of major conventional weapons was Sudan, which accounted for 4%.

In the Middle East, 23% of all major arms transfers went to the United Arab Emirates, 14% to Israel and 13% to Egypt. The report reminds that in June last year the United Nations (UN) imposed an embargo on the supply of most major weapons to Iran.

The report finds that supplies of major conventional arms to Libya were very low in the period between the lifting of the United Nations arms embargo on the country in September 2003 and the imposition of a new UN arms embargo last month. However, France, Italy, Russia and the UK have been competing for expected orders from Libya for combat aircraft, tanks, air defence systems and other weapons. Russia has orders from Libya for six Yakovlev Yak-130 trainer/combat aircraft and two Tarantul Fast Attack Craft, but did not secure an anticipated contract for export of its new Sukhoi Su-35 combat aircraft by the end of 2010.

Deliveries include 23 T-55AM tanks for Uganda from Russia and 21 artillery pieces from Israel in 2009; and 14 Sukhoi Su-25 combat aircraft for Sudan delivered by Belarus in 2009. Some of these have been used over Darfur in violation of UN sanctions. It last year also became known that the Government of Southern Sudan had ordered 10 transport helicopters for its air force and had received between 77 and 110 T-72 tanks from Ukraine via Kenya in the period 2007–2009.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo last year also received 20 T-72 tanks from Ukraine, and Nigeria received 15 Chengdu F-7 combat aircraft from China.
“In the period 2006–10 Germany accounted for 35% of supplies of major arms to sub-Saharan Africa, China for 10%, Sweden for 10% and Ukraine for 8%. All German and Swedish supplies to the region went to South Africa. China supplied major arms to 16 countries in the region and Ukraine to 8 countries,” SIPRI said in its report.

Middle East

SIPRI says the UAE was the sixth largest arms importer worldwide in 2006–10. “While its arms imports in 2010 were lower than in the previous years, the UAE will probably remain a top arms importer in the coming years based on a significant order backlog and plans for further major contracts for advanced weapons. The USA, France, Italy and Russia are the key suppliers to the UAE, and at least 10 other countries are supplying major arms to the country.”

In 2006–10 Egypt received 60% of its imports of major arms from the US, including M1A1 tanks and M113 armoured personnel carriers “of the type present during demonstrations in the country in January 2011”. Other suppliers included Russia (15%), Montenegro (6%), the Netherlands (6%) and China (5%). Russia’s Migoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 combat aircraft and the Chinese–Pakistani JF-17 have also been competing for an Egyptian order.

Saudi Arabia ranked as the 22nd largest arms importer in 2006–10. This should increase as deliveries begin on several major arms procurement programmes, including the import of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft from the UK, 724 Piranha/LAV armoured vehicles from Canada and six Airbus A-330 MRTT tanker aircraft from France. “In 2010 it was announced that Saudi Arabia was negotiating several major deals, including procurement of 84 [Boeing] F-15S combat aircraft and 70 [Boeing] AH-64D combat helicopters from the USA, 40 more Typhoon combat aircraft from the UK and a range of other weapons which several countries are competing to supply.”



Israeli imports of major arms were on the decline in 2010 after the delivery of 102 Lockheed Martin F-16I combat aircraft, financed by the US taxpayer, was completed in 2009. However, US military aid to Israel continued, including an agreement signed in 2010 to supply Israel with a first batch of 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 combat aircraft. Israel failed to agree to procure a submarine and two frigates from Germany, the only other significant supplier of major arms to Israel. Germany did not want to pay 33% of the costs as it had done for a 2006 order for two Dolphin submarines, which Israel is to receive this year and next.