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China's Growing Influence in Africa

Since the turn of the century China has exponentially increased its involvement and influence in the continent of Africa. In today's intelligence briefing Janes analysts will look deeper into China's impact with regards to:

  • Key military procurements
  • Training and exercises enhancing African countries combat capabilities
  • Key investments in critical infrastructure in Africa
  • Geo-strategic implications of China's growing influence in African countries

China's relation with Africa in the modern times can be traced back to the 1950s. The foundation for which were laid in the Bandung conference in 1955. The conference was the turning point which bolstered increased co-operation between China and Africa. In the early years, the co-operation was limited to economic assistance peace talks and decolonisation. It was not till the 1970s that Africa saw weapon sales from China. Today, I will be focussing on the major military equipment trade specifically land and air assets between China and the African countries. China's first export to Africa was in 1970 when Tanzania received a batch of Type 59 and Type 62 tanks. The arms trade was relatively slow in the beginning with only five countries boasting Chinese equipment. In the 1980s three other joined the list of importers. Currently, Chinese equipment is seen in 37 countries in the African continent which accounts for a total of 19% of the total inventory. This exponential rise in inventory occurred towards the turn of the century with 71% of imports coming in from 2000 to 2021.

The top importers of Chinese equipment in Africa are Tanzania, Nigeria, Sudan, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Gabon, Algeria, Namibia, Ghana and Ethiopia. The graph shown is broken down according to the equipment's generic environment. As seen on the slide the procurement of armoured land vehicles is higher as compared to the air platforms and weapons. The most common equipment procured among these 10 countries are the ZSL-92 family of vehicles, in differing variants, among land platforms and the JL-8 family of aircraft specifically the K-8 variant. The ZSL-92 is a family of wheeled armoured fighting vehicles with amphibious capabilities. The ZSL-92 is also referred to as the WZ551. The Karakorum-8 also known as K-8 is a single- engine advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft. One of the first users of the K-8 globally was Namibia when they procured it in 1999.

To understand further the emerging influence of China on arms trade in Africa, lets look deeper into the Tanzanian inventory. Tanzania currently stands as one of the top importers of Chinese equipment. The Tanzanian inventory includes equipment primarily from the Soviet era and China. Tanzania today, boasts around 50% of Chinese equipment in its inventory which is closely followed by the 32% of old Soviet equipment. The country also has equipment like the Casspir Mine- resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP) from South Africa, SB7l-360 Seeker observation aircraft from Australia and H155, H125 and H225M helicopters from Airbus Helicopters. The Tanzanian armed forces inventory in its initial years was dominated with equipment from the Soviet Union. This equipment included the D-30 howitzer, BM21 Multiple rocket launchers, ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, BRDM-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicles and many more. However, post the Cold war era China Copyright © 2022 Jane's Group UK Limited. All Rights Reserved. capitalised the void left by Russia by replacing obsolete systems with newer cheaper Chinese equipment. The turn of the millennium saw a huge upswing in China's exports to Tanzania.