Biden’s sanctions against Russia may have simply opened the door for China to enter the African arms market and grow stronger and larger. Russia is Africa’s major arms supplier, and the sanctions against Moscow will cause interruptions in the continent’s defense equipment supply. Now that the United States has imposed sanctions on Russia, Africa will be unable to buy Russian defense equipment as readily. There will be a large void created. So, who will be the one to fill it? Of course, it’s China. Russia is currently Africa’s unchallenged leader in military equipment supplies. Over half of the African continent’s defense needs are met by it. Russia transfers more than twice as much defense equipment to Africa as France. France is Africa’s second-largest armaments provider, behind the United States and China.
And the African defense sector is still vital from a strategic standpoint. Algeria, Egypt, Angola, and Sudan are Russia’s top consumers on the continent. “This is noteworthy because it emphasises Russia’s ambitions to build a foothold in North Africa,” a US-based researcher, Joseph Siegle, said. This region aids in the maintenance of influence and control over the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the Suez Canal and the Bab al-Mandab Strait as global chokepoints.
China’s regional ambitions are rising. Given Africa’s mineral wealth and strategic location, China has been attempting to expand its footprint on the continent as well. This is why China has been attempting to carve out a niche for itself in the African armaments market.
Beijing has also acquired some new customers, such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, who have received armored vehicles and rocket launchers from Beijing. Despite this, China only had a 7.5 percent share of the African armaments market between 2000 and 2018. The small arms and light weapons sector, which is not covered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data, is thought to have achieved greater progress.
China is hoping to benefit from Russia’s sanctions. China was attempting to chip into Russia’s African arms supply share even before the Ukraine crisis. “I know that a few nations, notably Algeria and Angola, are among both Russia’s and China’s top consumers,” said John Calabrese, an analyst at the American University in Washington. In the case of Egypt, Russia has a considerably larger footprint in terms of arms sales than China.”
Sanctions now allow China to pursue its arms-selling goals in Africa to a greater extent. “It’s feasible that China may try to profit from Russia being squeezed out of these markets as sanctions and financial limitations begin to bite,” Calabrese added. The United States, under Biden’s leadership, just lacks the political will to increase weaponry exports to Africa. As a result, the Biden administration will not provide armaments to Africa, nor will it allow Africa to purchase weapons from Russia. China gains a significant edge as a result of this.
In the African armaments business, China might also be a viable alternative to Russia. Calabrese responded to the subject of China replacing Russia’s arms sector by saying, “Some systems might be, as Russian arms producers have supplied the PLA for years.” For years, China has been replicating Russian defense designs and has reverse-engineered a number of Russian military platforms. A duplicate of the Russian Kalashnikov, the Chinese Type 56, has already found a market in Africa.
As African forces begin to run out of Russian military platforms that they have relied on for years, China will be able to say, “I can provide you with a cheap equivalent.” Yes, Chinese defense equipment will be of inferior quality and will fall far short of Russian norms. When there is a gap in the market, however, low-quality products can fill it. Finally, China can rely on the financial arrangements it has in place in Africa. Zambia already has a large loan from China for military acquisition, and China has supplied the country with a variety of military aircraft. It can do the same for many other African countries by providing military procurement loans.
As a result of Biden’s sanctions on Russia, China will become wealthier and more powerful. Because of Biden’s error, China’s arms industry will grow and Beijing will gain more influence in a strategically important region.