African defence spending up

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Defence spending in Africa increased 8.6 percent last year, the annual SIPRI Military Expenditure Database avers. Of this 44 percent ($2.5 billion) was spent by Algeria – partly due to concerns over the conflict in Libya.

World military expenditure, meanwhile totalled $1.74 trillion, almost unchanged from 2010. Africa makes up two percent of that total, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says. “The small rise of just 0.3 per cent in 2011 marks the end of a run of continuous increases in military spending between 1998 and 2010, including an annual average increase of 4.5 per cent between 2001 and 2009. Six of the world’s top military spenders—Brazil, France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States—made cuts in their military budgets in 2011, in most cases as part of attempts to reduce budget deficits,” SIPRI said. “Meanwhile other states, notably China and Russia, increased their military spending markedly.”

Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Project, explained that the “after-effects of the global economic crisis, especially deficit-reduction measures in the USA and Europe, have finally brought the decade-long rise in military spending to a halt—at least for now.”

Returning to Algeria, the SIPRI report reads that the increase in African spending “was entirely accounted for by the 44 percent increase in Algeria. Excluding Algeria, military expenditure in Africa was essentially constant.” In Algeria, a mid-year supplementary budget in July increased the initial budget allocation for the military by 22 percent, largely due to concerns about potential
spillovers from the conflict in Libya. “Moreover, the country has been undertaking a major re-armament programme that made it the seventh largest importer of major conventional weapons between 2007–11, fuelled by its growing revenue from oil and gas exports.

But SIPRI warns the figures for Africa “are highly uncertain due to missing data for numerous countries including, most significantly, Sudan, Libya and Eritrea.” It adds Nigeria has also increased military spending rapidly in recent years, also fuelled by oil wealth, and with significant expenditure on military internal security operations, against rebel groups in the Niger Delta and the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, SIPRI reports a “substantial increase” (4.6 percent) in spending in the Middle East. But it cautions the “figure for the Middle East for 2011 is highly uncertain, due to a lack of data for Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen, for whom figures have had to be estimated.” It adds it is not yet possible to assess the impact of the Arab Spring on military expenditure in the region, as the available figures are from budgets set before the uprisings began. “Of countries for whom data is available, the largest increase was by Iraq, at 55 percent. However, as Iraq has consistently underspent its defence budget in recent years, the final figure for 2011 may be significantly lower. Other countries making significant increases were Bahrain (14 percent), Kuwait (9.8 percent), Israel (6.8 percent) and Syria (6.1 percent), while Oman made a cut of 17 percent.