China Supply of Arms to Africa has Helped Them Become Africa’s Largest Trading Partner
By admin March 24, 2015


Chinese companies have been known mainly as suppliers of small arms, but that is changing quickly. From drones to frigates to fighter jets, the companies are aggressively pushing foreign sales of high-tech hardware, mostly in the developing world. In the medium-to-long term, China could make inroads into markets such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya, depending on how transitions in those states work out. The rise in arms supply by Chinese companies has affected Russian companies the most, but it has also impacted American and other Western companies.

According to the Stockholm Institute, the volume of Chinese conventional weapons exports (i.e. high-end aircraft, missiles, ships, and artillery) has jumped by 162 percent from 2008 to 2012, compared with the previous five years. The Institute now estimates that China is the fifth-largest arms exporter in the world, ahead of Britain, meaning Britain has dropped off the top 5 arms exporters list for the first time since 1960. From 2003 to 2007, China ranked eighth. Further, China’s foreign arms sales are also rising fast in dollar terms. According to IHS Jane’s, Chinese exports have nearly doubled over the past five years to $2.2 billion, making China the world’s eighth-largest exporter by value.

China has been highly criticized for supplying arms to authoritarian regimes in Africa because the supply of arms may fuel conflict and military coup d’états, but European and Western countries have engaged in similar practices in the past. Sudan has long been a recipient of arms from China, and recently Nigeria and Tanzania have invested in Chinese arms. Namibia and Cameroon have bought arms in smaller numbers from China as well, but the biggest purchases have been made by Morocco and Algeria, as they have larger defense budgets than other African countries.

China mainly supplies relatively low end and low technology type of equipment to a whole range of African countries. This includes armored vehicles, tanks, and the cheapest, simplest combat aircraft available on the market.
China’s economic involvement in Africa is rapidly increasing and the trade of arms has been a major reason. Since 2000, more than 40 agreements have been signed between Beijing and African countries. Further, trade between Asia and Africa has grown overall; trade between the two continents was $10.5 billion in 2000, $40 billion in 2005 and $166 billion in 2011. China is currently Africa’s largest trading partner, having surpassed the US in 2009. Arms have played a vital role in trade between Asia and Africa, but crude oil and raw materials remain the top two goods China import from Africa. .

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