Seven African countries have been ranked by their military strength in 2013 by Global Firepower. Uganda was not included on the list, but that nation’s army has played a key role in African peacekeeping forces, and is said to have one of the well-trained armies on the continent.
Let's take a closer look at the seven countries and why they are considered the largest military powers in Africa.
Egypt is the first African country to make the list. The Egyptian military has four main service branches: the army, navy, air force and air defense command. Egypt has more than 800 military aircraft and 200 helicopters. The Egyptian navy also reportedly has two Corvettes and four submarines in addition to various other vessels. One of the reasons Egypt ranks so highly is due to the support from international allies - in many instances this support takes the form of equipment. The US provides Egypt with military assistance annually in order to promote stability on the continent; they reportedly provided $1.39 billion in 2013. Egypt has in turn provided support to their allies on the continent, helping to train their armed forces; however Egypt’s main military focus has been on the Middle East, rather than Africa. According to reports the Egyptian military also controls large portions of the economy, the number has been put as high as 40%.
Ethiopia's military is made up of an army and an air force, the nation has the second strongest military on the African continent as a result of both their large population and their long independence from colonisation. Earlier this year it was reported that the Ethiopian military had developed their first drone (unmanned aerial vehicle); a military technology most often associated with the United States. The country's active involvement in international peacekeeping efforts in various conflicts all over the continent has also honed their defense force. As of 2012 Ethiopia reportedly had around 150 000 personnel in their ground forces and a further 3000 air force personnel. They have just over 300 tanks, 147 aircraft and 68 helicopters.
The South African National Defence Force is comprised of the South African army, navy and air force, as well as a military health service. The country's arsenal includes 250 tanks, 240 rocket projectors, 235 aircraft and three submarines. While South Africa has one of the smaller armies on this list in terms of personnel, they are considered the most advanced military in terms of technology. Before the end of Apartheid South Africa had developed nuclear weapons, and despite destroying them, there is still a weapons development industry in SA. The country is now starting to take a more active role in international peacekeeping efforts on the continent, but the recent tragedy in Central African Republic has shone a spotlight on the weaknesses of the the SA armed forces.
The Nigerian Armed Forces are made up of close to 500 000 personnel, split between the army, navy and air force. They are very active in combined peacekeeping efforts on the continent. According to Global Firepower Nigeria has 363 tanks, 294 aircraft and 84 helicopters. The Nigerian army in particular has been active internally, primarily in the north of the country. The army has been criticized for their heavy-handed manner in dealing with civilians in their conflict with Boko Haram. The Nigerian navy also has four corvettes. The strength of the armed forces has been a result of the contentious nature of Nigerian politics since independence. There were 10 military coups in Nigeria between 1966 and 1999 and there was also a civil war between 1967 and 1970. The budget is $3.7 billion.
The Algerian military is known as the People's National Army. The force is both large, with more than 120 000 active personnel, and well equipped. They are supplied mainly by Russia and China. The military is comprised of an army, navy and air force. Algeria's military has an impressive tally of 1050 tanks according to Global Firepower. They also reportedly have 148 rocket projectors, 409 aircraft, 136 helicopters, three Corvettes and three submarines. The Algerian army is believed to be very involved in domestic politics; this may be as a result of there being nothing much for them to do as they have not been involved in any international conflicts since 1976. Earlier this year in January, Algerian troops were involved in a botched operation to free hostages held at the Sahara gas plant. While 32 of the hostage takers were reportedly killed the death toll of hostages was higher, with some reports stating 48 were killed.
Kenya Defence Forces, as the East African nation's military is known, is comprised of an army, navy and air force. With only 24 120 active personnel it is one of the smaller forces on the continent; however the nation's strategic location means the Kenyan military has been highly active since its inception. It is supplied by the US, and has a budget of around $800 million. Kenya has 186 tanks, 12 rocket projectors, 148 aircraft and 78 helicopters. Kenya's military has been involved in several UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and Europe. They have also worked closely with Somalia's military in order to take on Al-Shabaab and have joined The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to further aide their cause.
Historically Libya had one of the largest military forces on the continent, but following the Libyan revolution in 2011 the previous army was disbanded and the Libyan National Army was created. The Libyan military currently has between 35 000 and 40 000 personnel. Their equipment arsenal remains impressive as they inherited the equipment from the former army the Armed Forces of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The current force is made up of ground forces, an air force and a navy. They have 500 tanks, 800 rocket projectors, 621 aircraft, a frigate and a Corvette.