Czech Republic and Poland Reportedly Seek to Increase Arms Export to Africa
While Russia, ever since the Soviet era, remains one of the main exporters of military equipment to Africa, with supply agreements existing between the vast majority of the continent's nation's and Moscow, some Central European countries are trying to compete with it to get their share of the lucrative market.
Some Czech and Polish defense companies are trying to secure new deals to sell more weapons and military equipment to African countries, seeking to lure away customers that are looking for alternatives to Russian arms, the Western media reported.
In the past century, then socialist countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia, allies of the USSR, (of which the modern-day Czech Republic
was a part) regularly supplied weapons to Africa and are therefore well positioned to maintain or modernize those Soviet systems with Western technology, the outlet claimed.
In general, Prague and Warsaw are reportedly trying to take advantage of the fact that a significant part of Russia’s attention is now occupied by the military operation in Ukraine
According to the report, the companies from the Central European nations are discussing deals for the supply of weapons, ammunition and other military equipment and services, but do not disclose which African countries might be interested in purchasing military goods.
"The best new markets are the African ones because they still use Soviet-era equipment but now want Western technology added to it," Jiri Hynek, president and director of industry trade group the Defence and Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic, told the outlet. "We call it the westernization of Soviet products."
The biggest Czech defense company Czechoslovak Group said its key to successful business in Africa was its ability to maintain and modernize Soviet military equipment.
Another major company, Poland
's state-owned PGZ, which controls dozens of defense companies, said it had been in intensive talks over the past year to enter African markets.
Another Polish military technology company, WB Group, also has observed increased interest from potential African clients and noted that it benefits from Russia's less active focus on Africa in terms of arms supplies.
Czech Trade Mission to Africa
As part of the Czech entry into African markets, earlier this month a Czech trade mission visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. The mission's key goal, according to Prime Minister Petr Fiala, was to expand the opportunities of the defense industry.
One of the officials said defense deals discussed as a result of the trip were worth billions of crowns and included talks with Ethiopia to modernize its aircraft and upgrade Soviet technology.
Another Czech official said that inviting African leaders to Prague represented another way to secure new defense deals.
For instance, the Czech-speaking president of Mozambique visited Prague in August, which was the first visit by a sub-Saharan African leader to the Czech Republic in more than 20 years.
Russia and Africa: Strong Military Cooperation
However, while the Czech Republic is only trying to increase its military significance for the African region, the total value of Russian licensed production of weapons and military equipment with African countries exceeded 50 billion rubles ($554.2 million), as the CEO of the Russian state arms export company Rosoboronexport Alexander Mikheev said on Wednesday.
The number of countries cooperating with the company is also astonishing: 44 out of 54 African countries have concluded agreements with Rosoboronexport.
Despite the sanctions, the demand for Russian weapons is not decreasing
and remains at the level of $50-55 billion, Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation chief Dmitry Shugaev told Sputnik
Moreover, in August, the company signed several arms export contracts
worth about $600 million at the Army 2023 International Military-Technical Forum.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
, Russia overtook China and became the largest arms supplier to sub-Saharan Africa between 2018 and 2022 with the share of arms imports rising to 26% over these five years.