The BRICS Alliance, the alternative international economic and political power rivaling the United States and the G7, has targeted the East African region to expand its influence in Africa. The influence it seeks to expand goes way beyond mere economic influence. It seeks to have military influence as well.
BRICS's impact on East Africa extends beyond mere economics with its surge in weapons trade. In recent years, BRICS countries, particularly Russia and China, have become major arms suppliers to East African countries. This has led to concerns about a regional arms race and the potential for increased conflict.
According to Business Insider Africa, Uganda and Rwanda lead arms imports from Russia, highlighting a growing presence of Russian weaponry in Eastern Africa. And according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia and China were the two largest arms suppliers to Africa in 2021, accounting for 44% and 21% of all arms imports to the continent, respectively. East African countries were among the biggest recipients of these arms, with Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda all ranking in the top 10 African arms importers in 2021.
According still to the SIPRI, the surge in BRICS arms exports to East Africa has been driven by a set of factors. These factors include the growing economic and political influence of BRICS countries in Africa, the willingness of BRICS countries to sell arms to countries with poor human rights records, the relatively low cost of BRICS weapons, and the increasing demand for arms in East Africa due to ongoing conflicts and instability.
The rise of BRICS as major arms suppliers to East Africa has a number of potential implications for the region. First, it could lead to an arms race as countries compete to acquire the latest and most sophisticated weapons. This could increase the risk of conflict and instability in the region.
Second, the sale of arms to countries with poor human rights records could lead to the use of these weapons against civilians. This is a particular concern in East Africa, where there are a number of ongoing conflicts and human rights abuses.
Third, the increasing availability of cheap and sophisticated weapons could make it easier for terrorist and insurgent groups to acquire arms. This could pose a serious threat to regional security.
The BRICS countries are not members of the Arms Trade Treaty, which is an international agreement that regulates the global arms trade. This means that there is less transparency and accountability in their arms exports.
The reality is that the BRICS countries are increasingly competing with each other and with other major powers for influence in Africa. This could lead to them using arms exports to gain leverage over African countries.
Overall, the surge in BRICS arms exports to East Africa is a worrying trend. It is important for the international community to work with BRICS countries and East African countries to reduce the flow of arms to the region and to promote peace and security.
In addition to the above, it is also worth noting that the BRICS countries have been increasingly involved in military cooperation with East African countries. For example, China has established military bases in Djibouti and Ethiopia, and Russia has provided military training and equipment to a number of East African countries. This increasing military cooperation could further exacerbate tensions in the region and increase the risk of conflict.