Russia is by far the largest supplier of arms to Africa, accounting for 44% of arms imports to Africa, far ahead of the United States and China.
Contracts are not new
Between 2015 and 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Mali purchased four Russian MI-35M combat helicopters, the same ones deployed in Ukraine. The Central African Republic has acquired 20 BRDM-2 armored vehicles, second-hand vehicles delivered by Russia as development aid.
In April 2022, in the midst of the war in Ukraine, Cameroon signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia. This agreement covers the exchange of information on defense policy and international security, the development of combined training relations, and the training of troops.
In August 2022, Mali received new military equipment from equipment from Russia, after a secret mission by the of the Malian Army Chief of Staff to Moscow earlier in the year. the year. Mali has a long-standing relationship with Moscow and is reportedly one of the with Moscow and is apparently one of the countries for which the relationship continues against all odds.
But the biggest purchases are from other countries. Like Algeria and Egypt, which have acquired much heavier equipment, with two submarines for Algiers and 50 MiG 29M combat aircraft for Cairo.
Russia’s military support for Africa is not new. Even though Moscow’s influence diminished after the fall of the former USSR, the arms trade has never stopped.
The return of Russian influence concerns in particular states led by military putschists such as Sudan, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, to which can be added the Central African Republic.
In French-speaking countries, resentment against France, and more broadly against the West, makes Russia appear as an alternative, a means of taking revenge against history.
Russia is by far the largest supplier of arms to Africa.
Africa and Putin: essentially military relations
During his first term in office, Putin showed little interest in Africa, as he focused primarily on the restoration of the Russian state and then on actions in its immediate vicinity, such as Chechnya, Georgia and other neighbouring states. It was not until September 2006 that President Putin undertook a mini-tour of Africa, which took him first to South Africa and then to Morocco. This mini-tour was followed by Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, visiting Angola, Namibia and Nigeria in 2009.
In 2006, during his visit to Algiers, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote off Algeria’s $4.5 billion debt in exchange for major arms deals. The same was done in Libya the same year, in exchange for arms contracts, in addition to gas and railroads.
The major risk for Africa is that Russia will push African clients to go to war against countries that source from the West
The Africans at the Sochi summit were impressed by Russian military power. This led to the signing of the twenty contractual agreements mentioned above for arms, training and security and defence advice.
“The major risk for Africa is that Russia, anxious to preserve its image with Africans on the capabilities of its armaments and military training, will push African clients with Russian equipment who embrace its combat doctrine, to go to war against countries that source from the West and follow Western doctrine. Nothing seems less certain, as Russia is embroiled in its war in Ukraine and a victory for its clan in Africa is highly unlikely. However, it is not impossible that African countries will follow the outcome of the war in Ukraine more closely,” writes an Atlatic Council analyst.
Algeria: by far the first customer of Russian armaments
The Algerian president and the chief of the General Staff are meeting with the secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Patrushev, one of the strongmen of the Kremlin.
The Algerian chief of staff said the visit of Putin’s top security adviser reflected “the two countries’ firm commitment to strengthening their historical and strategic partnership … especially in the field of military cooperation.
Nearly 80% of the equipment used by the Algerian armed forces is of Soviet manufacture, a figure that makes the Maghreb country the third largest importer of weapons from Russia, behind two giants like India and China.
Algeria is Russia’s second largest trading partner in Africa, with a trade volume of around 3 billion dollars in 2021.
Russia is by far the largest supplier of arms to the continent
In November 2022, Algeria hosted for the first time a joint exercise with Russia entitled “Desert Shield 2022” in the Bechar region, bordering Morocco. This exercise focused on the search, detection and destruction of terrorist groups. It follows the military maneuvers conducted each year jointly by the military forces of the United States and Morocco.
Sources in the specialized media speak of an Algerian contract worth up to 12 billion US dollars in favor of Russia. The totality of this sum would be destined for the acquisition and modernization of the Algerian arsenal.
This massive purchase of weapons systems would be supported by the huge increase in defense budgets that the Algerian government intends to approve by 2023. The 2023 finance law passed by Algerian parliamentarians indicates a 130% increase in defense spending. The nearly US$10 billion that Algeria has historically spent over the past decade would now rise to US$23 billion. This increase is made possible by the rising cost of gas and hydrocarbons due to the war in Ukraine.
Russia is by far the largest supplier of arms to the continent, accounting for 44% of arms imports to Africa, far ahead of the United States and China.