Defence spending in Africa on the decrease, but still higher than 2007


Military expenditure in Africa as a whole fell by 1.3% to $37.9 billion in 2016, the second year of decrease after 11 consecutive years of increases dating back to 2003, but total spending in Africa is still 48% higher than it was in 2007, according to a new report.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in a recent report said military expenditure in North Africa continues to rise, making this region exceptional on the continent. The total in 2016 of $18.7 billion is an increase of 1.5% compared with 2015 and is 14,5% higher than in 2007.

Algeria, Africa’s largest spender, increased its military expenditure by 2.3% over 2015, a much lower level of increase than any other year since 2007. This slowdown in growth came at a time when low oil prices were having a major effect on Algeria’s public finances.

By contrast, spending in sub-Saharan Africa decreased by 3.6%. Cuts in spending by South Sudan and Angola drove this trend. Faced with severe economic problems due to falling oil revenues, military spending in South Sudan decreased by 54%, while Angola’s spending fell by 10% to levels not seen since 2006.

Despite the numerous ongoing conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, increases in military spending by countries in conflict were substantially lower than in 2015. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, military expenditure rose by only 2.4%, following a 43% increase in 2015, even though civil conflicts continue in parts of the country.

Amid Mali’s continuing peacebuilding efforts and fight against armed Islamist extremists, the country increased its military expenditure by 18% in 2016. While this is the second highest increase in sub-Saharan Africa, it is much lower than the country’s 67% increase in 2015, SIPRI notes.

Botswana had the highest percentage increase in military spending between 2015 and 2016 of any country in Africa. Despite it being in one of the least conflict-prone areas of sub-Saharan Africa and one of the few African countries to have never been involved in an armed conflict, Botswana’s spending grew by 40% or $152 million in 2016. This is reported to be part of Botswana’s military modernization programme.

Military expenditure in Nigeria increased by only 1.2% to $1.7 billion in 2016, despite its large-scale military operations against Boko Haram. Corruption allegations linked to military procurement, however, continue to raise questions about the reliability of the country’s published figures, SIPRI said.

The Institute also noted that the world military spend figure of US$1.69 trillion in 2016, topped by the United States, accounted for just 2.2% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The country now under the control of President Donald Trump spent $611 billion on the military in 2016, the same year he was inaugurated. The title of second highest world military expenditure went to China ($215 billion) and third was Russia at $69.2 billion.

SIPRI notes military spending as a share of GDP was highest in the Middle East, for countries where data is available, with an average of six percent. On the other side of the scale are the America’s, with an average of 1.3% of GDP.

Asia and Oceania saw military expenditure rise by just on five percent. The increased spending levels are related to what SIPRI calls “the many tensions” in the region including territorial rights to the South China Sea.

Military expenditure in Central and South America and the Caribbean combined decreased by just on eight percent to “a level not seen since 2007”.

The fall, SIPRI said, is largely explained by the reduction in revenue by oil exporting countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. In Brazil spending also continued to decline. This is a result of the worsening economic crisis in the South American country.

SIPRI has not published an estimate for Middle East military spending as data is not available for “several key spenders” including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For countries where data is available, substantial increases were seen in Iran and Kuwait with decreases noted in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.