China: China expands defense supplies to African states
According to Boston University’s Center for Global Development, China has signed 27 loan agreements with eight African countries worth $3.5 billion between 2000 and 2020 for defense spending.
Most of this sum was spent on purchasing military aircraft, equipment and training and on building housing for the army and police.
About $2.1 billion went to Zambia, which also received massive loans from China to build highways, dams and airports. Other countries to receive Chinese military loans include Ghana, which received $389 million, Cameroon ($333 million), Tanzania ($285 million), Zimbabwe ($257 million), Sudan ($121 million), Sierra Leone ($16 million) and Namibia ($9 million). ).
The University’s Global Development Center, Chinese lenders included the National Political Bank, the Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank), and Chinese companies such as Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Poly Technologies.
Jyhjong Hwang, senior researcher for Boston University’s Chinese Loans to Africa Database, said Zambia was the top recipient of Chinese loans for defense equipment.
Formerly Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, once threatened Zambia with an embargo and invaded Zambian airspace in 1964. China came to Zambia’s support, including for the army of the air. Chinese military aircraft were competitively priced and loans were made for them.
The Zambian Air Force is also a major employer as well as a property developer in Zambia, particularly in the capital Lusaka. Aviation Industry Corporation of China is not only a leading aircraft supplier, but also a construction company for large-scale infrastructure projects – roads and airports.
The current Zambian fleet also includes Italian, Russian and Swedish aircraft.
John Calabrese, head of the Middle East-Asia project at the American University in Washington, told the South China Morning Post that during the 1970s Zambia’s relations with Britain and Rhodesia soured. and that the latter imposed an embargo on Zambian copper exports. Simultaneously, it moved closer to Beijing.
Since 2006, China’s presence in Zambia has expanded and become Zambia’s largest creditor.
“The Zambian military has been seeking to modernize for several years and China may be interested in developing this aspect of the relationship to expand its presence in the African arms market and improve the security situation in the country – thus protecting its investments in a country where it dominates the mining sector,” reported SCMP quoting Calabrese.
Chinese involvement in Zambia has created controversy and US Africa Command recently announced plans to open an office at the US Embassy in Zambia to enhance security cooperation.