Increasing Impact of Brics on East Africa’s Security Dynamics via Arms Competition
On Tuesday September 5, 2023, new information revealed that the Brics countries have a significant influence in the arms supply to eastern African nations. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) arms transfer database indicates that Uganda and Rwanda were the primary importers of Russian arms, while Ethiopia and Tanzania obtained their military firepower from China in 2021 and 2022.
In Sipri’s August update, it was observed that Russia and China dominate the arms trade, with India being the largest arms importer globally. Sipri’s research focuses on conflicts, arms control, and purchases.
The update analyzed arms transfers between 2008 and 2022 to determine if the trend of trading within the Brics group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is reflected in their arms trade as well. Russia has remained India’s top arms supplier for the past 14 years, while India is also the largest export market for Russian arms.
“However, Russia’s market share decreased from 78 percent in 2008-2012 to 45 percent in 2018-2022, while France, Israel, and the USA gained market share,” explains the think tank.
China primarily imports major arms from Russia, ranking as the second-largest market for Russian arms exports between 2008 and 2022. However, China is gradually becoming less dependent on foreign arms imports as its domestic arms industry rapidly grows.
Although India holds the position of the world’s top arms importer from 2008 to 2022, China ranked third. The other Brics members (Brazil, South Africa, and Russia) imported significantly smaller volumes of arms, ranking 36th, 55th, and 63rd respectively, according to Sipri.
In Eastern Africa, Uganda emerged as the largest market for Russian arms, importing weapons worth $48 million in 2022 out of a total import bill of $55 million. Other sources of weapons for Uganda included Czechia ($4 million), Israel ($2 million), China ($1 million), and South Africa ($1 million).
In 2021, Rwanda imported arms worth $46 million from Russia, $10 million from Turkey, and $2 million from the US.
In 2022, Ethiopia obtained weapons valued at $35 million from China, while the previous year, its arms were sourced from Turkey ($5 million) and $6 million worth of weapons from unknown sources.
Tanzania imported arms worth $29 million from China in 2021, and also acquired weapons worth $24 million from France.
Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo obtained their arms from South Africa. Kenya and South Sudan are the only countries in the region that did not source their military supplies from a Brics member during this period.
In 2009, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa established the Brics bloc to counter western dominance in geopolitics and promote peace, security, development, and cooperation. The inclusion of new members Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates aims to broaden these goals.
Scholars consider the emergence of Brics to be crucial in establishing a new world order and bridging the gap between the role of emerging markets in the global system and their participation in the decision-making process of global institutions.