(NSI News Source Info) March 24, 2009: Russia's presence in the African arms market has declined in recent years, despite Rosoboronexport's high profile activities in Algeria and Sudan. At various points during the Cold War, Russia was the primary arms supplier to regimes from Libya to Ethiopia to Angola; however, its overall share of the African market has continued to fall.
In 1999, Russia controlled nearly 6 percent of the African market, but by 2006, its share had dropped to just over 3 percent. Moreover, the importance of the African market to the Russian defense industry has waned as Africa's total share of exports declined from 21 percent in 1999 to 18 percent in 2006 and approximately 15 percent in 2008.
At the core of Russia's arms relationship with Africa, also representing one of Russia's largest arms deals, was the $7.5 billion deal with Algeria, which was completed in March 2006. The deal included the advanced 2S6M Tunguska air defense system, SA-19 SAMs, S-300 air defense systems, 36 MIG-29SMTs, 28 Su-30MKs, 180 T-90 main battle tanks, two Kilo class diesel electric submarines, and 16 Yak-130 advanced trainers.
With a delivery timeline stretching from 2007 through at least 2011, Russia will remain committed to this tender for years to come, as the Algerian deal represents a case study in Moscow's debt relief for arms sales strategy. However, recent developments indicate that the deal may have reached an impasse. In early 2008, Algeria returned the first batch of MiG-29SMTs to Russia, noting that the purportedly new aircraft were actually used and in poor operating condition.
Russia's arms deal with Algeria allowed it to gain access to the Moroccan market. As the two North African nations remain wary of each other's military buildup, Russia was able to capitalize on Morocco's interest in diversifying its arms supply. In 2003, Russia signed a deal with Morocco for the supply of 26SM Tunguska air defense systems and accompanying SA-19 missiles, which were delivered in 2005 and 2006.
Aside from the more lucrative northern African markets, major Russian arms sales continue to be directed at conflict-ridden regions: Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are major markets for Russian arms. Despite a U.N. arms embargo that was imposed in 2005, Russia has continued to supply Sudan with arms - albeit most deliveries are for hardware such as IFVs, APCs, and helicopters ordered before the embargo. Russia also continues to sell an amalgamation of used fighter-attack aircraft, artillery, anti-tank missiles, and SAMs to Ethiopia and Eritrea, which remain locked in a low-intensity conflict.
Outside of Algeria and the aforementioned conflict regions, the majority of Russian arms sales to Africa consist of helicopters, namely the ubiquitous Mi-8/17, Mi-24, and Mi-35. While Russian military hardware, specifically small arms, continues to proliferate throughout Africa, these transactions are generally associated with international arms dealers outside the official channels of the Russian government