Egypt the largest recipient for French military hardware in Africa


Egypt has continued to be France’s leading military customer on the African continent, according to defence export statistics released earlier this month.

Orders for defence equipment from Egypt in 2018 were valued at €287.4 million, with the rest of the continent accounting for €266.4 million. Orders from the African continent amounted to €553.8 million and accounted for 6.07% of total export orders recorded by the French government for the year.

The values represent a decline of 1.95% compared to 2017, with a nearly €100 million drop in orders from Sub-Saharan African countries primarily offset by an increase in orders from North Africa.

Overall, foreign orders for French defence equipment increased by over 30% year-on-year, increasing from €6.94 billion in 2017 to €9.12 billion. The figure remains lower than 2015 and 2016, when orders for combat aircraft and ships helped to boost the figures to €16.92 and €13.94 billion respectively, but is the third highest result over the past decade. Key export markets were the Middle East (excluding Egypt), valued at €3.79 billion or 41% of total orders, and the European Union, valued at €2.29 billion or 25.15% of total orders.

During 2018, Egypt launched the first of its locally built, French designed Gowind corvettes, with sensor masts also being delivered to Egypt for integration onto the locally built corvettes. Egypt’s attempts to procure MBDA Scalp stand-off munitions as part of its acquisition of Dassault Rafale aircraft faced difficulties due to US government export controls on key components. In December, France’s Naval Group signed a five-year In-Service Support Agreement with the Egyptian Navy for the Gowind corvettes. The programme is to be managed through a new Alexandria-based subsidiary of Naval Group, called Alexandria Naval for Maintenance and Industry (ANMI).

Beyond Egypt, other key customers of French equipment on the continent included Senegal (€75.7 million), Algeria (€60.5 million), Nigeria (€50 million), and Cote d’Ivoire (€47 million). Orders from South Africa during the year were valued at €3.7 million, down from €20.6 million in 2016 and €10.4 million in 2017.

It was revealed in April 2018 that Senegal had ordered Thales Ground Master 400 air surveillance radars and SkyView command and control systems as part of its efforts to deploy a state-of-the-art airspace surveillance and control capability. The country also ordered a helicopter mission training system from Thales, to be installed at the Air Force Academy near Dakar, to train pilots flying the country’s Mil Mi-17 transport and Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter fleets.

Additionally, the country was reported to have acquired 36 Arquus Bastion armoured personnel carriers. French website Intelligence Online reported during 2018 that the acquisition, valued at $30 million, had been funded through a grant provided by Saudi Arabia and facilitated by France’s Sofema.

Military export licence approvals for exports to Africa in 2018 were valued at €24.98 billion across 481 licenses.

Egypt was again a significant export market, with 107 export licenses approved worth an aggregated €15.77 billion. Key areas of requests were in aircraft and UAVs, defence electronics, and naval vessels and equipment. Elsewhere in Africa, significant licence approvals included three for naval vessels and equipment to Algeria valued at an aggregated €2.59 billion, one licence to Angola for defence electronics valued at €288.5 million, and five licences for Nigeria for naval vessels and equipment with an aggregate value of €219.2 million.

Under French defence export regulations, export licence approvals are required before entering into contact negotiations. While not every contract negotiation will ultimately result in a sale, the figure represents a potential market value for French defence manufacturers that can be placed on the region.

Key orders for French industry during the year included additional Dassault Rafale multirole combat aircraft for Qatar, NH90 helicopters for Spain and Qatar, and the agreement with Belgium for armoured vehicles under the CAMO contract.