Home | News    Friday 29 April 2005

FEATURE-Africa not spending enough on defence

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ADDIS ABABA, Apr 28, 2005 (SAPA News-RSA) — No African country is spending enough on defence, a conference on military budgetary processes in Africa heard on Thursday.

"Donor concerns about defence budgets are relative," African Security Dialogue and Research (ASDR) executive director Eboe Hutchful told a gathering at the African Union conference centre in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. "No African country is objectively spending enough on defence.

"This is a movement away from the orthodoxy (that suggests Africa spends too much on defence). Everywhere you look there are ramshackle defence structures, except in a few states," Hutchful said.

The ASDR, a Ghanaian think-tank, is one of the organisers of the conference called to disseminate the findings of a study on the subject.

It, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) and Ethiopia’s Inter Africa Group (IAG) conducted case studies in eight countries, including South Africa, which found that what was being spent on defence and security was often badly spent.

"... with the exceptions of South Africa and recently Sierra Leone, the countries in this study lack strategic defence plans developed from well-articulated risk assessments and detailed analyses of the security and economic environments in which they operate", an executive summary of the research conducted to date said.

"Most of these countries also lack clearly defined defence policies from which well-developed strategic defence plans can develop, including nations with relatively high levels of military spending, such as Ethiopia and Nigeria."

Formal policies, such as South Africa’s 1996 defence white paper and 1998 defence review "at least provide a guide as to what to budget for and how it should be done given the arbitrariness that has characterised the budgetary processes across Africa."

Hutchful said the study, involving South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Mali and Sierra Leone was "a labour of love" that was also the first of its kind. "We are proud of the results, but at the same time we are not dogmatic about the results.

It is still a work-in-progress and will inevitably have flaws in it," Hutchful said. Reacting to questions on how the countries concerned were chosen, Hutchful said it in part depended on the willingness of countries to participate and partly on the availability of researchers to conduct the study.

He said 15 countries were chosen initially, but some fell by the wayside because of security concerns and others because of a disinclination to cooperate. Sipri’s Elisabeth Skons said the study came about after mostly-Western donor nations starting tying funding to cut-backs in defence spending. This led to questions about how accurate African military expenditure figures were.

This, in turn, led to enquiries on the decision-making processes used on the continent for defence budgeting. The IAG’s ambassador, Peter Robleh, said attempts to answer these often ran foul of official attempts to maintain confidentiality.

Secrecy has had a noxious effect on Africa, he said, adding that there was a clear need to use available resources prudently, which, in turn, required the proper scrutiny of public expenditure.

Ethiopian deputy defence minister Sultan Mohammed said there had been a steady decline in defence spending in his country since the end of its ruinous war with neighbouring Eritrea at the turn of the century.

Since the fall of a vicious military dictatorship in 1991,Ethiopia had also moved to create an appropriate framework to ensure defence planning and budgeting complied with generally accepted public expenditure management procedures.

Although the process was neither complete nor flawless, Mohammed was confident that Ethiopia had something to teach the rest of Africa.

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