Sunday, June 23, 2024

China-Africa arms trade: Zambia largest recipient of Chinese loans for military gear, study says


  • Of the US$1.5 billion worth of financing for arms deals advanced by China to African countries between 2000 and 2017, US$600 million went to Zambia, report says
  • Most of the money was spent on buying Chinese planes for the Zambian air force, it says

Zambia is the largest recipient of Chinese loans for military procurement in Africa, according to a new study.

Of the US$1.5 billion worth of such financing advanced by Beijing to African nations between 2000 and 2017, US$600 million went to Zambia, Jyhjong Hwang, a China-Africa researcher at Ohio State University in the US, said in a report.

Unlike other African countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, the southern nation is a country that “suffers neither war nor civil unrest … nor is it a geostrategic hotspot for world superpowers”, like Djibouti, where many countries, including the United States, Japan, France and China have set up military bases.

Most of the money, which funded the procurement of aircraft for the Zambian Air Force, came from China Exim Bank, the state-owned aerospace and defence giant Aviation Industry Corporation of China and China Poly Technologies.

China has supplied a range of aircraft to Zambia, including J-6 fighter jets, MA60 and Y-12 transporters and combat helicopters, and also provided pilot training.

Each Chinese aircraft purchase by Zambia, and other African nations, came with some form of financial support, either in the form of a loan or line of credit, the study said.

The availability of financing options might help to explain why Zambia was so reliant on China for the expansion of its air force, she said.

Besides funding for military deals, China has also helped Zambia with the financing for the Tanzania-Zambia railway, which enables the country to move its copper to the sea for export. Many other countries, including Britain, the US and Russia, refused to help.

“Chinese support left a very positive impression on the Zambian leadership that will last for decades to come,” Hwang said at this year’s China-Africa Research Initiative conference.

As well as providing funding, China is the second-largest supplier of military hardware to Africa, after Russia.

Elijah Munyi, an assistant professor of international relations at the United States International University in Nairobi, said that over the past decade there had been a shift towards China and away from Western countries.

Between 2005-10, China accounted for 10 per cent of the market for arms sales to sub-Saharan countries, but that has since risen to 19 per cent (or US$3.2 billion), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Munyi said that between 2014-19 China was only the fifth-largest seller of arms to Africa’s top importers, but the largest to “second-tier states”, including Sudan, Cameroon, Zambia and Tanzania, where it held a more than 40 per cent market share.

Nigeria imports about a fifth of its arms from China, but its biggest supplier is Russia, he said.

Munyi said he was told by military chiefs in Kenya and Uganda that cost was the most important factor for African countries when considering arms purchases.

He said also that unlike some suppliers, like the US, China appeared unconcerned about how the arms and military equipment it sold to African countries might be used.

Buying from the US involved “so much oversight from the state, defence and Congress”, he said.

“By the time you have made progress it is three years down the line.”

David Shinn, a professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International ­Affairs, said: “China sells arms to any country and maintains little oversight of end-use.”

Tom Bayes, a China-Africa researcher and visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said that while China mostly sold small arms, it was increasingly exporting larger, more sophisticated systems, including tanks, aircraft and combat drones – all at low prices.

But recurring quality problems limited the potential for China to reliably enhance African militaries’ capabilities, he said.


  1. Just buy uniforms for officers, but tell them to stop giving worn out uniforms to PF and UPND political cadres.
    5 helicopters are enough to ferry ballot papers.
    By-the-way, is Stardy immune from prosecution too?

    • Zambia got the largest share albeit with the least need and ability to repay. Binge borrowing at its best, what a BABYLON SYSTEM. In the meantime the children youre graudtaing from univeristies and colleges just end up as thieves and murderers coz you’re spending all job creation monies on unnecessary luxuries; YOU’RE THE BEASTS THAT BOB MARLEY WAS SINGING ABOUT IN “BABYLON SYSTEM” – Vampires!!!!

  2. From 1.5billion you can build 5 Power stations like Kafue Gorge lower(@$300 million each)
    You still have 10 hrs of loadsheding after borrowing $27 billion.
    Besides is Zambia at war to be borrowing so much money for the military.

  3. LT

    Why are you not reporting about the fire at Kafue power station ????

    Are you waiting for a cooked up story from state house , where they are considering calling it sabotage ????

  4. Our priorities OR BETTER YET the government’s priorities are completely in the wrong places!! I really wonder how they come to such conclusions forgoing all else that the country needs…

  5. From the time african countries came into existence after the berlin conference, the number of african countries that have fought “nation against nation wars” can only be counted may on one hand, the majority of the armor has been used on their own citizens during civil unrest, which means that if most african countries had no such armor most civil war casaulties would have been avoided.

  6. Nomba you want your ugly fathers to be recipient of such funds? National security is vital for every nation. Go ask your gods in Britain and USA how much they spend on military. Once you find that out please shove a bullet up your backside.

  7. China sells arms to it’s allies just like the US have been arming some of the middle eastern countries for decades. As a landlocked country, we need serious air power otherwise our friends will take advantage of our peace. I would argue that $1.5 billion on military is actually not enough considering this government claimed to be building a road costing $2 billion. We need star wars to protect our Zambia.



  9. Directed to the editor of this news media, please learn to quote your sources. This article was originally published by South China Daily.
    It is not the first time that you simply copy and paste news articles.

  10. Explains why someone would want to start a war again Rwanda and DRC.

    And you wonder why IMF is reluctant to lend you money.

    Our leaders are busy borrowing money fund foreign terrorism and promote proxy wars to destabilise our neighbours.

    This is very unZambian. We do not want to be part of any of this.

    Why is it that no good news has ever been reported about Zambia internationally since 2015? Why????

  11. The PF are preparing for war after they are defeated next year. That’s why they have been rumbling about not ceding power to the winners.

  12. TELL THE CHILDREN THE TRUTH – Ati you’ll graduate and not get work coz we are busy squandering your money, living luxurious lives on borrowed money and leaving you in irredeemable debts!!!

  13. Can’t pay nurses and build schools, but can dump $600 million on planes and helicopters to play fight and bleed the country dry. What a disgrace.

  14. USA and other developed advanced nations spend money they have earned and do not neglect their key sectors. It is mu nyumba bana bali na njala and you go and buy a kafironda explosives worth three months salary and you tell them I must protect you from enemies…my foot!

Comments are closed.

Read more

Local News

Discover more from Lusaka Times-Zambia's Leading Online News Site -

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading