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Israeli Arms Transfers to Sub-Saharan Africa

Publisher: SIPRI
October, 2011

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.

Related publications

This paper is one of a series produced for the SIPRI Project on Monitoring Arms Flows to Africa and Assessing the Practical Regional and National Challenges and Possibilities for a Relevant and Functioning Arms Trade Treaty. The project is funded by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The other background papers in the series are:

Holtom, P., 'Ukrainian Arms Supplies to Sub-Saharan Africa', SIPRI Background Paper, Feb. 2011.

Jeuck, L., 'Arms Transfers to Zimbabwe: Implications for an Arms Trade Treaty', SIPRI Background Paper, Mar. 2011.

Wezeman, P. D., 'Arms Flows and the Conflict in Somalia', SIPRI Background Paper, Oct. 2010.

Wezeman, P. D., 'South African Arms Supplies to Sub-Saharan Africa', SIPRI Background Paper, Jan. 2011.

The final report of the project is

Wezeman, P. D., Wezeman, S. T. and Béraud-Sudreau, L., Arms Flows to Sub-Saharan Africa, SIPRI Policy Paper no. 30 (SIPRI: Stockholm, Dec. 2011).


I. Introduction

II. Israeli arms exports to sub-Saharan Africa

III. Explaining Israeli arms exports: Motives and restraints

IV. Israeli arms export controls 

V. The impact of Israeli arms on conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa

VI. Conclusions


Siemon T. Wezeman is a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.