Recent years, and now 2010, are seen as years of great natural disasters that also in a great way unify good people all over the world that are rushing to aid those who are suffering. That occasional need involves practically all the continents including Africa. But, in recent years, we need to pay attention also to another type of aid that is being supplied in abundance. This one, however, is actually greatly capable of harming people; it is the “weapon aid”. Forty-four US companies accounted for 61 per cent of the top 100’s arms sales in 2007, while 32 West European companies accounted for 31 per cent of the sales. Russia, Japan, Israel and India accounted for most of the rest.
The year 2009 will likely be remembered as the beginning of a more assertive phase in Chinese foreign policy, as seen in Beijing’s stance on reform of the international financial system, its massive investments in foreign countries, and in particular, its investment in and acquisition of energy and natural resource assets. At the same time, China’s progress is made in the very competitive global arms markets. Although China is far behind the leaders of conventional weapons supply, their offensive is global and it increasingly includes Africa. China sells arms to states from which it buys oil and gas or where it has gained access to explore for oil or gas (e.g. Sudan). China is also competing with the very strong role that Russia and Ukraine play in the African arms market, providing knock-offs of Russian-made weapons systems.
Arms transfers to Africa can not be considered a strong weapons market by global standards, at least for now. The largest importers of weapons in Africa—South Africa and Algeria—import less than 10% of the world’s weapons. However, even small volumes of transfers of conventional weapons can have a significant impact on the region.
Militarization of Algeria, for example, plays an increasing role in recent levels of fighting there. Morocco, Algeria’s neighbor and long-term rival, embarked on a significant military modernization programme involving supplies from USA, France and Netherlands. Chad’s arms imports have reached all time high in recent years. Kenya is also a strong importer of weapons from Ukraine. In 2008, a consignment of heavy weapons was hijacked by Somali pirates while en route from Ukraine to Kenya and possibly partially ended in Southern Sudan. Furthermore, Sudan and Somalia are listed on the list of the 5 least peaceful nations on earth used for the Global Peace Index (GPI), which seeks to determine what cultural attributes and institutions are associated with states of peace.
Let’s keep our eyes on related reports published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in Sweden. By an unfortunate correlation, Sweden, besides being associated with peace, is also a strong player in the international weapons market.