News You Really Need To See: “Defense Spending: Arms and the African”

“Defense Spending: Arms and the African”

The Economist, November 22-28, 2014, p.43

“The Nigerian army, one of the biggest in Africa, should have little difficulty scattering the amateur jihadists.  But its arsenal is decrepit and its troops poorly trained.  Hence the government’s decision to spend $1 billion on new aircraft and training, among other things.  Critics question how much will go towards appropriate kit (never mind how much gets stolen by corrupt generals) and whether it is sensible to lavish resources on a force implicated in atrocities and human-rights abuses.  These questions resonate across Africa. Last year military spending there grew by 8.3%, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), faster than in other parts of the world.  Two out of three African countries have substantially increased military spending over the past decade; the continent as a whole raised military expenditure by 65%, after it had stagnated for the previous 15 years.  Angola’s defence budget increased by more than one-third in 2013, to $6 billion, overtaking South Africa as the biggest spender in sub-Saharan Africa. Other countries with rocketing defence budgets include Burkina Faso, Ghana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The continent’s biggest spender by far is Algeria, at $10 billion. … [M]any are participating in a growing number of African Union and UN peacekeeping missions.  Once rarely seen in blue helmets, sub-Saharan soldiers are increasingly replacing troops from Europe and Asia. … Many African armies are becoming more professional, too.  Their troops are more often paid on time, get decent food and go on regular leave, all of which boosts morale and discipline. … But some spending is prompted by genuine security threats.  The Sahel and parts of east Africa face a range of extreme jihadists.  Coastal states have seen piracy soar, most recently in the west.  Offshore discoveries of oil and gas have increased the need for maritime security.  More traditional threats, internal as well as external, persist in countries such as South Sudan, where the government is fighting rebels while also facing a hostile northern neighbour.”

Quickie Analysis: A better-equipped and more professional army is hopefully also an army less inclined to overthrow the government or go on looting rampages.

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