Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2011

Israeli arms transfers to sub-Saharan Africa

Siemon T. Wezeman

October 2011

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute


Israel accounted for less than 1 per cent of transfers of major weapons to sub-Saharan Africa for the period 2006–10. Deliveries consisted mainly of small numbers of artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles, armoured vehicles and patrol craft. However, in addition to major weapons, Israel also supplied small arms and light weapons, military electronics and training to several countries in the region. Israeli weapons, trainers and brokers have been observed in numerous African trouble spots and may play a bigger role than their numbers imply. The Israeli arms export decision-making process remains unclear. Issues like human rights and potential diversion or misuse of delivered weapons seem to have gained importance, but deliveries to conflicts and undemocratic regimes continue. While the African arms market is small, its commercial aspect is an important driver for Israel’s arms sales. However, developing political and military ties to several African countries is also gaining importance, particularly to counter Iranian or suspected-Iranian influences. Israeli arms transfers to Africa illustrate the need to include smaller suppliers and issues such as training and intelligence systems in discussions on controls of the arms trade.