NewsChina outpaces Russia in African arms market amid sanctions

China outpaces Russia in African arms market amid sanctions

China is pushing Russia out of the arms market in Africa.
China is pushing Russia out of the arms market in Africa.
Images source: © East News | GULSHAN KHAN

8:39 AM EDT, June 5, 2024

Over a year, China has become the leading supplier of weapons to at least 21 African countries, surpassing Russia, which held a 26% share of the African market until 2019. From 2019 to 2023, Russia's share has decreased by almost half. Russia sent its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Africa to salvage the situation.

Two years ago, in Sub-Saharan African countries, primarily in Central African Republic, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad, one-fourth of the purchased weapons came from Moscow. But Western sanctions mean that less of it is now reaching Africa. Currently, at least seven out of ten African armies possess armored vehicles manufactured in China, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The competition for the African arms market is more about influence than money. Sub-Saharan Africa imports relatively few weapons compared to the rest of the world, mainly receiving equipment with low technological sophistication, such as rifles, grenades, light combat vehicles, and light artillery.

Of course, there are exceptions. Recently, Beijing delivered warships to Djibouti and Mauritania and advanced drones to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Nigeria, whose arms imports increased by 418% from 2022 to 2023, imported nearly $200 million worth of arms from China.

For China, selling weapons to Africa is part of a long-term strategy to gain access to the continent's resources. Additionally, trading arms with countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe is part of their rivalry with the West. The best evidence of this is the fact that these contracts are signed at very high political levels, usually with Chinese delegations led by the Minister of Defense.

Chinese weapons reach impoverished countries

Among the 10 countries engaged in high-level military cooperation with China, six (including Algeria, Angola, Sudan, and Nigeria) are oil, gas, and other key resource suppliers. In the remaining countries (Kenya and Ethiopia), significant Chinese investments are made in ports, airports, and power plants.

But Chinese weapons also reach impoverished countries that cannot afford expensive and sophisticated vehicles, missiles, or tanks. Therefore, China strives to keep its affordable weapons, giving it an advantage over competitors.

Additionally, Beijing employs aggressive marketing, continuously promoting its military equipment at annual arms shows organized in various countries across the continent.

Russia sent its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Africa to salvage its share of the African arms market. He was in Guinea on Monday and the Congo on Tuesday. The visit will likely include Chad and Burkina Faso.

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