African arms imports increase

A new report released overnight by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that South Africa and Algeria were the largest African importers of arms over the period 2004–2008, accounting for 27% and 35% respectively.
African states, however, only accounted for 7% of total conventional weapons imports over that period. This was up from 6% from 1999–2003.
The next largest recipient of major conventional weapons was Sudan, which accounted for 8% of Africa`s imports. Excluding South Africa, arms transfers to countries in sub- Saharan Africa accounted for only 2% of the world total for the period 2004–2008.
“However, even small volumes of transfers of major conventional weapons can have a significant impact on conflict dynamics in the region. Deliveries to Algeria in 2008 included the last of 180 T-90 tanks and an estimated 18 of a total of 28 Su-30MK combat aircraft, both purchased from Russia,” the report adds.
Two Project 636 Kilo Class submarines and a significant number of air defence systems are also on order from Russia.
The report further adds that Morocco, Algeria`s neighbour and long-term rival, “embarked on a significant military modernisation programme last year, ordering 24 F-16C combat aircraft from the USA, one large FREMM frigate from France and three smaller SIGMA-90 frigates from the Netherlands.”
Chad`s arms imports were five times higher over the period 2004–2008 than 1999–2003, although globally it remains a minor recipient.
SIPRI explains that since the volume of deliveries of arms can fluctuate significantly from one year to the next, it uses a five-year moving average “to give a more stable measure of trends in international transfers of major conventional weapons”.
Weapons delivered to Chad in 2008 included the first of six Su-25 ground attack aircraft from Ukraine and the last of around 82 armoured vehicles from Belgium. Sudan, which has tense relations with Chad, took delivery of an estimated 10 Su-25 aircraft from Belarus.
During 2007 and 2008 Ukraine delivered an estimated 110 T-72 tanks and 11 BM-21 multiple rocket launchers to Kenya.
In September 2008 a consignment of 33 T-72 tanks and 6 BM-21 launchers was hijacked by Somali pirates while en route from Ukraine to Kenya. The cargo was held for four months, during which time there was much speculation that the final destination for this cargo was intended to be the government of Southern Sudan, rather than Kenya, despite Kenyan and Ukrainian protestations.
Global transfers
Elsewhere, the report notes a “significant rise in arms transfers to the Middle East”. There were also increases in arms deliveries to East Asia, the Caucasus and Pakistan. SIPRI says the US remains the world`s largest exporter, followed by Russia and Germany.
The highly-regarded disarmament advocacy group adds the global financial crisis and falling oil prices “are clearly going to have a significant impact on the global arms trade in the years ahead” but says “it is too soon to demonstrate the impact of the crisis. However, there are early signs of countries delaying or cancelling purchases.”
Dr Paul Holtom, head of the SIPRI Arms Transfer Programme says that while “certain states—including Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Morocco—may look to tighten their belts, others—such as Taiwan and the UAE—are boosting their military capabilities.
“At a time when the world needs cooperative solutions to global problems, the thriving international arms market points to a squandering of resources which the international community can ill afford,” Holtom adds. 
Top suppliers
SIPRI lists the top five suppliers of major conventional weapons for the period 2004–2008 as the US, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. “The US and Russia remained by far the largest exporters, accounting for 31% and 25% of all exports respectively.”
The top five suppliers accounted for 78% of exports of major conventional weapons (a categorisation that excludes small arms) in the period 2004–2008, compared with 81% for the period 1999–2003. The UK returned to being the fifth largest exporter in 2008. It had been replaced by the Netherlands in 2007 because of increased Dutch exports of surplus second-hand equipment.
“More than a third (37%) of US deliveries of major convention weapons for the period 2004–2008 went to the Middle East, including around 207 combat aircraft and over 5000 guided bombs.”
“Several major new deals were under discussion in 2008, including the sale of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile (ABM) surface-to-air missile systems to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Russia`s arms exports were 14% higher in 2004–2008 than in 1999–2003, although its overall share of the global market remained roughly the same. Around 71% of Russian arms were exported to the Asia–Pacific region for 2004–2008, with deliveries of advanced combat aircraft and naval vessels to China and India accounting for a considerable share.
“At the same time, deliveries to Africa and Latin America have increased by around 200% and 900%, respectively. The majority of these transfers went to Algeria and Venezuela.
“The volume of Germany`s arms exports increased by 70% between 1999–2003 and 2004–2008 and its share of the global market rose from 7% to 10%. Much of this increase was due to exports to European destinations, which grew by 123%. The two biggest recipients were Greece and Turkey, which between them accounted for nearly a third of German exports. In recent years, both countries have received Leopard-2A4 tanks and licensed produced Type-214 sub marines,” the report says.
“For the period 2004–2008, 40% of France`s arms exports went to states in the Middle East. For the second year in a row, there were no outstanding orders for newly built French fighter aircraft. However, France was reported to be in advance negotiations for deals with Libya and the UAE.
“The UK`s largest customers in recent years have been the USA and India, which accounted for 21% and 14%, respectively, of British transfers for the period 2004–2008.
“India is in the process of receiving 66 Hawk-100 trainer aircraft and 20 Jaguar-S fighter aircraft from the UK. In 2009 the UK is due to begin the delivery of 72 Typhoon combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia, which will help to cement its position among the top five suppliers.
Top recipients
“Since 1950 the list of five states that receive most major conventional weapons has changed much more than that of the five largest suppliers.
“However, in recent years the composition of the list has remained relatively stable. China and India were the world`s two largest arms importers for both 1999–2003 and 2004–2008. The most significant change in the composition of the top five arms importers has been the entry of the UAE, which rose from being the 16th largest importer in the period 1999–2003 to being the third largest for the period 2004–2008. The top five recipients accounted for 35% of imports of major conventional weapons for the period 2004–2008, compared with 34% for the period 1999–2003.
The current top five are China (11%), India (7%), UAE (6%), South Korea (6%) and Greece (4%). The 1999-2003 cohort was China, India, Greece, Turkey and South Korea.   

Picture: South African imports included 24 BAE Systems Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter trainers of which four are shown. (Source: SA Air Force)