Russia has emerged as the biggest supplier of weapons to Africa and accounts for half of the region’s arms market pie, more than twice that of China and the United States.
According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data for 2015-2019, Africa has imported 49% of its military equipment from Russia, which is nearly twice the volume of that purchased from its next two suppliers- the United States (14%) and China (13%).
“Russia signed agreements on military cooperation with Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan, Suriname and the Republic of the Congo last year, which brings the total number of agreements to more than 100,” Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin was quoted as saying by Izvestia yesterday.
“As of the end of last year, Russia maintains a leading position in the international arms market among the countries that are the main exporters of military products ... The volume of exports of military products amounted to over $15.2 billion,” the minister said.
Algeria, the world’s sixth-largest arms importer in 2015-19, has acquired 12 Su-34 bombers and Terminator II combat vehicles from Russia, and is reportedly planning to buy a dozen Su-57 jets. Between 2013-15, it bought 42 Mi-28N combat helicopters, 8 Mi-26 transport helicopters and two Project 636 Varshavyanka (Kilo-class) submarines- Ouarsenis and Hoggar.
“Russia, over the last few years, has been really making an effort to try to sell weapons to Algeria and trying to increase their influence in North Africa the same way that they have been trying to do so in the Middle East,” Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The National Interest.
Some of Russian sales to the region in the last five years include: 12 Su-30 jets to Angola, helmet-mounted night vision goggles to an unnamed African nation, 12 Mi-35 helicopters to Nigeria, Pantsir S1 air defense system to Cameroon, and 2 Mi-171Sh helicopters to Burkina Faso.
However, even as Russia earned a spot in the list of major arms suppliers across the world, it is still losing ground to competitors. Russia’s sale of weapons decreased by 18% between 2010–14 and 2015–19, while the US showed a healthy 23% growth in its exports.
Being the world’s second largest weapons exporter, the country has sold most of its arms to India (25%) and China (16%) in Asia, and Algeria (14%) in North Africa. States in Africa accounted for 17% of Russian arms exports in 2015–19.
African nations make up the low end of the arms market with many of them unable to afford Western arms so turn to Russia and China. Typically, their requirement includes liberal financing in addition to a low price. Russia has not made public the mechanism of its arms sales to African nations.