African countries increased their military spending last year despite the economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A new report shows that African countries increased their military spending by 1.2% in 2021, compared to 2020.
That means African countries have spent $39.7 billion on military hardware, according to the report from the SIPRI Fact Sheet, which monitors the arms industry database.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report, African military spending has followed three distinct trends. It first increased continuously between 2012 and 2014, followed by four years of decline until 2018, then three consecutive years of growth until 2021, to give an overall increase of 2.5%.
In 2021, North African military spending was $19.6 billion, 1.7% lower than in 2020, but 29% higher than in 2012.
Long-running tensions between North Africa’s two biggest spenders – Algeria and Morocco – escalated in 2021. Algeria’s military spending fell 6.1% in 2021, to 9 .1 billion dollars, while Morocco’s spending increased by 3.4%, to reach 5.4 billion dollars.
In 2021, military spending in sub-Saharan Africa totaled $20.1 billion, 4.1% more than in 2020, but 14% less than in 2012. The increase in 2021 was the first in Africa since 2014 and was mainly driven by Nigeria, the subregion’s biggest spender.
Between 2020 and 2021, Nigeria has increased its military spending by 56%, to $4.5 billion. The increase came in response to Nigeria’s various security challenges, such as attacks by Islamist extremists and separatist insurgents. South Africa, the second biggest spender in the sub-region, cut its military spending by 13% to $3.3 billion in 2021.
Kenya, Uganda and Angola were, respectively, the third, fourth and fifth largest military spenders in sub-Saharan Africa.
During the decade 2012-2021, both Kenya and Uganda faced insurgencies which influenced their military spending. Between 2012 and 2021, military spending increased by 203% in Uganda but remained relatively stable in Kenya (down 4.5%).
Angola’s military spending fell by 66% over the same period. The deterioration of economic conditions in Angola from around 2015 – largely caused by low oil prices and falling oil production – and the slow economic recovery in recent years have been at the heart of the sharp decline in Angolan military spending over the decade.
Globally, global military spending in 2021 passed the US$2 trillion mark for the first time, reaching $2.113 trillion.
The United States (accounting for 38% of global military spending in 2021) and China (14%) remained by far the two biggest spenders. There have been some notable changes in the top 15 rankings between 2020 and 2021, however. The UK and France have each moved up two spots, becoming the fourth and sixth biggest spenders in 2021 respectively.
The report says that after a 17% drop in military spending, Saudi Arabia fell from the fourth biggest spender in 2020 to the eighth biggest spender in 2021. Iran increased its military spending by 11%, making it the 14th biggest military spender in 2021. This is the first time in 20 years that Iran ranks among the top 15 military spenders.
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