Beyond new roads, railway lines, shopping malls and skyscrapers dotting cities across the continent, Africa is now bristling with new weapons to replace its ageing inventories.
Since 2004, military spending by African countries has increased by 81 per cent and in 2013 the continent had the largest rise at 8.3 per cent in military spending in the world.
According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), African countries spent $44.9 billion on their militaries between 2012 and 2013 and in the whole of the past decade, more than $300 billion.
In East African Community (EAC), member states have spent more than $15 billion since 2004 on their militaries.
Kenya leads the pack, having spent more than $7 billion on its armed forces. Uganda is second with more than $4 billion in expenditure over the last decade, followed by Tanzania at $2.7 billion, Rwanda at $825 million and lastly Burundi with $513 million.
READ: Kenya’s defence budget grows ahead of Africa peers in 2013
Since 2001, Kenya’s military has been in the midst of a modernisation programme aimed at replacing the force’s ageing weapons to fight emerging threats in the Horn of African region, such as terrorism, arms smuggling, human trafficking and drug trafficking.
This year’s $1.7 billion defence budget will go to acquiring 10 new military helicopters, refurbishment of three grounded Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters and installation of closed circuit (CCTV) surveillance cameras in 10 cities to secure the country following a series of terrorist attacks by Al Shabaab.
According to a recent report on Kenya’s defence industry market attractiveness, overall military spending will grow to $5.5 billion by 2018 as the country acquires helicopters, eight new warships, armoured vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and border surveillance and monitoring equipment.
Uganda has actually recorded a drop in military spending from the all-time high of $1.02 billion in 2011 to $465 million this year. The cut has been attributed to the heavy military hardware Uganda purchased between 2009 and 2013.
During this period, Uganda’s arms imports increased by 1,200 per cent, higher than between 2004 to 2008 due to the delivery of six Su-30 combat aircraft worth $744 million and 44 T-90S tanks from Russia and 4 S-125 SAM systems from Ukraine.
READ: Nairobi joins Uganda in arms shopping spree
Some of these weapons are now in use in the country’s interventions in the civil wars in South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic where it is hunting down warlord Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Tanzania’s military is on a fast-tracked modernisation programme.
In September, President Jakaya Kikwete said his administration is “in the process of acquiring modern air force equipment, which includes attack helicopters, modern aircraft and other high-tech gear.”