There’s a new “rumble in the jungle” in the words of Muhammad Ali, but George Foreman isn’t a part of it.
What’s changing on the African landscape is the configuration of allies and business partners. Russia, most notably, is making a comeback in weapons sales to Africa, topping western and Chinese arms sellers by a wide margin.
In a new report, “Trends in International Arms Transfers,” Russia accounted for 28 percent of arms exports to sub-Saharan Africa in 2014-18, China for 24 percent, Ukraine for 8.3 percent, the U.S. for 7.1 percent and France for 6.1 percent.
Nigeria, the largest arms importer in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014-18, received 35 percent of its arms imports from Russia, 21 percent from China and 15 percent from the U.S.
In the Central African Republic, Moscow sent weapons and hundreds of military personnel, advisers and mercenaries, allegedly in return for profitable contracts to extract the country’s natural resources. A full military base for Russia is reportedly in the works.
In Sudan, private Russian security companies came to the aid of President Omar al-Bashir who faces a growing national movement demanding his retirement. In exchange, Sudan’s Ministry of Minerals signed a contract with the Russian company M Invest for the extraction of ore and other metals.
Sudan became the first Arab nation to purchase Russia’s SU-24 fighter jets as part of a deal for equipment upgrades and training worth an estimated $1 billion. Al-Bashir also invited Russia to build a naval base in Sudan, offering critical access to the Red Sea.
Last spring, five sub-Saharan African countries—Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania—reportedly appealed to Moscow to help their overtaxed militaries and security services combat the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
Other countries in need of aid, Cameroon for its fight with Boko Haram jihadists, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Angola, also received military assistance from Russia.
Finally, Algeria may have been the number one buyer of Russian weapons sold in Africa, according to a recent report in the Middle East Monitor. According to the report, about half of all Russian weapons sold in Africa were bought by the regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a year before his ouster in a popular uprising that succeeded this month.
“Algeria’s heavy demand for Russian weapons is due to many reasons,” said Russian ambassador to Algeria, Igor Belyaev, “but most notably the historical link between the two countries through economic and historical relations since Algerian independence in which Russia had played an important role.”