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Russia is losing arms markets in Africa. China is pushing it out – SIPRI report

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China has become the leading arms supplier to at least 21 African countries and has overtaken Russia in this respect, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Moscow, wanting to save its share in the African arms market, sent its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Africa.

During the year China have become the leading arms supplier to at least 21 African countries and have overtaken Russia, reports SIPRI. By 2019, Moscow had 26 percent. share of the African market, but between 2019 and 2023 it fell by almost half.

Just two years ago in sub-Saharan African countries, primarily the Central African Republic, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad, as much as a quarter of the weapons purchased came from Moscow. Western sanctions have meant that less and less of it is now sent to Africa. Currently, at least seven out of ten African armies have armored vehicles made in China, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

A Nigerian soldier during trainingLEGNAN KOULA/EPA/PAP

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The competition for the African arms market is more a competition for influence than for money. Sub-Saharan Africa imports few weapons compared to the rest of the world and mainly receives low-tech equipment, rifles, grenades, light combat vehicles and light artillery.

Chinese military shipsFacebook/Tea Seiha

There are exceptions, of course – Beijing recently delivered warships to Djibouti and Mauritania and advanced drones to Nigeria and the DRC. Nigeria itself, whose arms imports increased by 418% in 2022–2023, imported almost $200 million from China during this time.

For China, selling weapons to Africa is part of a long-term strategy to gain access to the continent's resources. Additionally, arms trade with countries such as Kenya, EthiopiaDemocratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe is part of Beijing's rivalry with the West. The best proof of this is the conclusion of such contracts at a very high political level, usually the Chinese delegations are led by the Minister of Defense.

Russia sends Lavrov to Africa

Of the 10 countries involved at a high level in military cooperation with China, six – among others Algeria, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria – these are suppliers of oil, gas and other key resources. The rest, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, have significant Chinese investments, ports, airports and power plants.

But Chinese weapons also go to poor countries that cannot afford expensive and sophisticated vehicles, missiles or tanks. Therefore, China is trying to make its weapons affordable, which gives it an advantage over its rivals. Additionally, Beijing uses aggressive marketing, constantly promoting its military equipment at annual arms exhibitions held in various countries across the continent.

Russia, wanting to save its share in the African arms market, sent its foreign minister to Africa Sergei Lavrov. On Monday he was in Guinea, on Tuesday in Congo, and the visit will probably also include Chad and Burkina Faso.

Main photo source: LEGNAN KOULA/EPA/PAP



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