New study: Transparency in military spending in Sub-Saharan Africa higher than expected though Kenya did not offer information of value to assess it well


President Uhuru Kenyatta and Commander-in- Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces inspecting a parade mounted by recruits during a pass out parade on 8th November 2018 at Recruits Training School in Eldoret. PHOTO/COURTESY


The level of transparency in military spending in sub-Saharan Africa is greater than previously thought, this is according to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute  (SIPRI).

The report shows that between 2012 and 2017, 45 of the 47 countries surveyed published at least one official budget document in a timely manner online.

“Contrary to common belief, countries in sub-Saharan Africa show a high degree of transparency in how they spend money on their military,” says Dr Nan Tian, Researcher in the SIPRI Arms Transfers and Military Expenditure Programme.

“Citizens everywhere should know where and how public money is spent. It is encouraging that national reporting in sub-Saharan Africa has improved,” he adds.

The study adds that the number of countries that publish ‘defence’ strategies and information through defence policy documents is growing. These documents, such as white papers, are good examples of ways in which governments can link policy outcome with resources.

“Between 2012 and 2017 six countries published some form of defence policy or white paper, compared with only four during the period 2002–11,” it notes.

The report observes that some countries disclosures like that provided by Kenya in its 2017 Defence White Paper did not offer adequate information of value to assess her security requirements.

“However, a problem that persists is that many of the documents, such as Kenya’s 2017 Defence White Paper, offer little information of value for the assessment of a country’s security requirements,” the report shows.

The study adds for the purpose of the information presented in this paper, SIPRI assessed national reporting on five key criteria: information availability, comprehensiveness, ease of access, reliability and disaggregation.

Soldiers of the Kenyan contingent serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). PHOTO/COURTESY

No transparency in Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea; fall in Botswana

While SIPRI’s study shows that there is generally a high degree of transparency in the military sector in sub-Saharan Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea have not published any official information on military spending since 2009 and 2003 respectively, and Botswana was one of very few states to show a deterioration in transparency.

 Recently in Botswana, official budgetary reports have become increasingly difficult to obtain, there is a lack of a national defence policy and almost no government information or dialogue exists on issues such as arms procurement.

“While these issues are worrying, the main cause for concern is the decreased public engagement on military-related matters,” says Dr Tian.

Botswana had the third highest percentage increase in military spending between 2014 and 2017. Military spending grew by 60 per cent (or $182 million) in that period as part of several military procurement programmes involving France and Switzerland.

‘This military spending increase has occurred despite the fact that Botswana is located in one of the least conflict-prone areas of Africa and is one of the few states in sub-Saharan Africa to have never been involved in an armed conflict,’ says Dr Tian.

Substantial increase in transparency in the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the stand-out cases with substantial improvements in military sector transparency. There is evidence of improved oversight and accountability in budget reporting, such as implementing an official budget formulation process and publishing budget execution reports both quarterly and biannually. Although improvements are still needed in the areas of accessibility and disaggregation, military sector transparency has increased substantially.

‘The publication of accessible spending information is a major step towards greater transparency and accountability in the military sector,’ says Tian.

Reporting to the United Nations needs to improve

Unlike Europe and South America, there are currently no regional reporting mechanisms in place in sub-Saharan Africa for exchanging information on military expenditure between states. The UN Report on Military Expenditures is the only international reporting system to which states in sub-Saharan Africa have agreed to participate. In the period 2008–17, only five states in sub-Saharan Africa reported at least once, and no reports were submitted during the years 2015–17.

“It is clear from SIPRI’s study that the lack of UN reporting is not due to a lack of information. Rather, the challenge is to encourage countries to submit data to the UN,” says Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers and Military Expenditure Programme.

Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board and former UN Deputy Secretary-General said government transparency at the international level is key to reinforcing trust and encouraging dialogue between countries.

“Therefore, UN member states need to work together on implementing and improving reporting,”  he says.

Help us to report stories that expose human rights violations, corruption, environmental degradation, spark reforms and generally spotlight issues of public interest.
While traditional news reporting is losing its relevance, serious investigation now requires more than basic journalistic skills. To do this we require a lot of resources.

Nelson Mandela once said: “A critical, independent, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”

If you like our journalism support us to continue bringing you groundbreaking and agenda setting stories.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.