Russian defense industry seduces African countries

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On the occasion of the Russia-Africa forum held in Sochi from October 23 to 25, several African countries announced new orders for Russian-made defense equipment. Thus, Nigeria has confirmed an order for 12 Mi-35 combat helicopters to reinforce the 12 aircraft already ordered (6 of which have already been delivered), in the fight between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram. At the same time, Cameroon declared itself the purchaser of an unspecified number of Pantsir S1 anti-aircraft and anti-drone defense systems, to ensure the close protection of key State buildings and critical infrastructures, particularly against possible drone attacks, which we know are increasingly used by African insurgent forces.

In total, Russian company Rosoboronexport, which covers the majority of Russian military equipment exports, said order intake from 20 African countries represented a third of the company's $14 billion portfolio. The situation is, however, quite uneven, since two countries, Algeria and Egypt, alone represent a very large share of these orders in terms of turnover (more than 70% according to our estimates).

The Russian Pantsir S1 system provides close anti-aircraft, missile and anti-drone protection for sensitive sites Defense News | Cameroon | Construction of Military Helicopters
Cameroon has ordered an unspecified number of Pantsir S1 systems

We also note that Russian industries are promoting rustic and economical equipment in Africa, by offering the Mi35, an evolved version of the venerable Mi24 Hind, rather than the Mi28 or the Ka52, which are more efficient, but also more expensive and complex to maintain. Likewise, it is the Pantsir S1 that is offered in Cameroon, and not the Pantsir S2, which has more advanced missiles and a detection system. In fact, the offer proposed by Rosoboronexport to African countries, with the notable exception of the two main Algerian and Egyptian customers, is mainly composed of rustic and inexpensive equipment, such as the light training and attack fighter Yak130 or the Mig35 light fighter. This equipment is both efficient in the context of African use, and very economical, a Mig35 not exceeding $25 million, or a third of the price of an F16 Block 70+.

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If small arms still constitute the basis of Russian arms exports to African countries, major consumers of this type of equipment and ammunition, it appears that the Russian defense industry has managed to structure a global supply of equipment that can be described as “entry-level”, even if some are very efficient, adapted to the needs and means of many African countries. While China is gaining more of a foothold in the African defense equipment market every year, Russia is determined not to give up its shares on the continent which, according to existing projections, represents the greatest potential for demographic growth in the decades. to come with, unfortunately, the risks of conflict that accompanies it.

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