A recent Defense News story points out what many analysts have noted for several months. The nations of Africa are increasing their spending on defense. The sum budgeted by these nations is expected to top $20 billion in the next ten years. Both local and multinational firms in the defense industry are rushing to participate in this growth spurt.
The story points out that Islamic terrorism and regional instabilities have continued to grow. African governments recognize that their militaries must be modernized, better trained and better equipped. The increase in prices for minerals and oil of the last several years have left many nations with the cash to invest in their armed forces. In an earlier article, Defense News pointed to the nations in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and in West Africa as leading the defense spending surge.
Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows that an increase in spending of $20 billion will be more than a 50 percent increase over 2012 spending. North African nations spent $16.4 billion for defense in 2012, while sub-Saharan nations spent $22.7 billion for a continental total of $39.2 billion in defense spending. That is double the spending on the continent in 2001. Algeria leads the list in spending, with Nigeria, Angola and South Africa also spending large sums for defense in 2012.
South Africa’s defense industry is noted in the Aug. 17 piece as perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the growth in defense spending. Their firms are already competitive in world markets and they are seen by many Africans as a “local” choice. In addition, South African participation in peacekeeping operations has raised the country’s profile and demonstrated the utility of their defense products on the continent.
The Africans are buying more than hardware, as they seek military training and maintenance expertise. With the reductions in the size and budget of the American military and similar actions in the United Kingdom and other Western European nations, the focus for defense firms must change. The American defense industry seeks to be a player in the growing African marketplace but faces local challenges as well as competition from firms based in former colonial powers.