The military is the group or groups of people that are given power to defend something (mostly a country). They are armed, so they are called the armed forces. The military protects its country by defending it from the armed forces of enemies, if there is a war. From fighting extreme insurgency and protecting dictators in power, African armed forces get up to it all.
Global Firepower recently released its rankings for the world’s military powers. Of special interest is the Africa region due to its unique challenges in combating extreme terrorism and insurgency. Below are the rankings of Africa’s top military powers;
Egypt puts itself over the top with regard to military strength due to the sheer size of its armed forces. The North Africa power ranks an impressive 12th in global rankings. The Egyptian Armed Forces consist of the Egyptian Army, Egyptian Navy, Egyptian Air Force and Egyptian Air Defense Command. Nearly 500,000 personnel serve on its active frontline force, far surpassing all its African counterparts.
It has nearly 10,000 armoured fighting vehicles, 60,000 logistical vehicles, 1,092 aircraft, and large oil reserves from which to draw. What greatly sets it apart is its naval strength which includes traditional carriers as well as nuclear powered submarines. The military has been gaining a grip on power since the military coup that toppled Morsi and put al-Sisi in power. In a constitutional referendum that was held this year, proposed amendments gave the army greater powers that activists say may lead to interventions in civilian matters.
Just like its North Africa counterpart, Algeria has managed to use its large maritime border to its advantage. The country has managed to develop massive military capabilities on land, in air as well as in the waters. The country, however, ranks a distant second in 27th position in global rankings. Algeria’s active frontline personnel number more than 130,000 troops and it has nearly 2,000 armoured fighting vehicles at its disposal.
The country is experiencing turmoil after its long-time president stepped down, but the military has also found a voice as instability and civil unrest persists. The army chief has voiced his concerns on the proposed delay to the elections which may fuel further unrest. The army in Algeria is the only entity able to oppose effectively Islamic Forces (that almost took over the country after the independence).
3. South Africa
As it hasn’t been embroiled in an international military conflict for some time, South Africa uses its highly advanced military for peacekeeping and international cooperation.
The lack of conflict has not prevented the country from having a whopping $4,6 billion defence budget. Its aircraft and naval vessels are notoriously well equipped with the latest technology, and though the country has less than 100,000 active front line personnel, it has the capabilities and manpower for much more. Add to that a vast array of land system technology, and the South African military is a force to be reckoned with.
The West Africa army has been locked in a battle with the Boko Haram insurgency for the better half of the decade. Despite significant gains made in Buhari’s first term, there have been a few setbacks in the past year as the army is more trained for conventional warfare rather than the guerrilla tactics used by the insurgents. Like Algeria and Egypt, an abundant domestic oil supply eases the financial burden of involvement in military conflict. Nigeria has more than 1,800 armoured vehicles, 250 tanks, and 6,000 logistical vehicles at its disposal, as well as nearly 300 aircraft and 25 high-powered naval vessels. The naval power of the country lacks behind compared to the rest of the African counterparts with maritime borders.
Despite being landlocked and not having the advantages of the top 3, Ethiopia is the only country without a maritime border in the Top 5. Ethiopia has focused its resources on developing its army and air force to an impressive degree (the GFP doesn’t penalize landlocked countries for not having a naval force). Prime Minister Aby Ahmed has enjoyed a cordial relationship with the military since gaining power with military officials having been seen touring some of the PM’s projects and being briefed of his vision for the country.
The country has for years experienced internal conflict, the need for a strong military has also been a necessity considering the threat of terrorist group al-Shabaab. Ethiopia currently has an active force of 140,000 troops with nearly 2 million people reaching military age annually.
The Angola Armed Forces (FFA) has three components: the army, the navy, and the air force. Earlier this year, the transformation agenda of President Lourenco sept through the armed forces with 88 generals being relieved of their duties. This comes a year after the chief of staff lost his job when he was named by the attorney general in a corruption probe.
The eggs from what the President calls the “Golden Goose” (oil reserves) have allowed the Southern Africa nation to fund a large military budget. It currently has an active force of up to 100,000 troops backed up by 585 armoured fighting vehicles, 300 tanks, 285 pieces of aircraft, and has a navy of 57 craft.
Earlier this year, King Mohammed VI made a call for the government to recruit 10,000 Moroccans into compulsory military service this year, and this is set to increase to 15,000 in 2020. The Royal Army has an active force of 196,000 personnel. At its disposal are 291 aircraft, 2,720 armoured vehicles, 1,109 tanks and a navy with a fleet of 121 assets.
The army also kicked off joint military exercise with the US dubbed “African Lion 2019” in March which was focused on training it for the fight against violent extremism and terrorism. However, despite its large budget, funding partners such as the U.S. have reported that it remains “plagued by corruption, an inefficient bureaucracy and low levels of education in the ranks.” The deployment of most of its forces in Western Sahara remains its biggest weakness to date.
Probably the most controversial entry in this year listings, heroes turned villains. After prolonged protests and a sit-in by protesters at its headquarters, the military toppled longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir. However, the past few weeks have seen reports of military brutality coming out of Sudan as talks between civilian representatives and the military reached a deadlock.
The military strength grew through the decades of al-Bashir rule and it has received funding from Saudi Arabia in the last few months after grabbing power. The military has an active force of 104,00 0 personnel, 191 aircraft, 410 combat tanks, 403 armoured fighting vehicles and a total of 18 naval assets. Most of this equipment is supplied from Russia and China as the country is under sanctions from Western countries.
9. Democratic Republic of Congo
The DRC is home to Africa’s second largest population at 86 million. Blue helmets, the United Nations Stabilisation Mission, still has a presence in the country as the country’s own forces are not fully ready to handle the peace operations. The security reform of the country began in 2003 after a period of civil war and is still grappling with the effort to integrate armed non-state actors into national security institutions. There is an active force of 134,000 personnel, though this a sizeable force, it is still lagging behind in training compared to other forces.
There has not been peace and stability in the North Africa country since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. The military has an impressive cache of equipment which you obviously guessed is from its oil dollars. The country is currently divided between a government in Tripoli and a rogue general, General Haftar, who enjoys the backing of Western powers such as the United States. The government in Tripoli is battling to keep the forces out of the city as it lacks a fully integrated force. Regardless, the country still has available 2,500 armoured fighting vehicles, 500 tanks, 600 towed artillery pieces, 6,500 logistical vehicles.