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China Eyes New Arms Markets, Allies in West Africa Amid Waning French Influence

China is making inroads into the West African arms market and is also looking to make new allies and build influence in the region amid waning French influence there. Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali are all French-speaking and, as former colonies, historically fell under France’s sphere of influence. And although France is still the largest arms provider in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, all three countries are now seemingly in China’s sights.

China’s largest weapons producer, Norinco, has recently opened new sales office in Senegal, in addition to its existing offices in Nigeria, Angola and South Africa. Beijing also plans to set up offices in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire – where it already sells arms. The arrival of the world’s seventh largest weapon producer on Senegalese soil has also been heralded by Chinese media as an advance for the Asian country’s influence in West Africa and a challenge to the existing influence of Russia and France. China is now the third-largest arms exporter to Africa, behind Russia and the United States.

While Beijing has so far kept a lower profile in Western Africa, now, amid waning French influence, it is looking beyond business, seeking to make new allies and build influence there. Chinese efforts to enter the market are increasing wherever Beijing sees a “deterioration of French influence and the effect of international sanctions on Russia’s trade”, says Danilo delle Fave, a specialist in Chinese security.

Chinese state media have said the physical expansion into West Africa exemplifies a growing desire among the Chinese military-industrial complex not just to sell arms in Africa but as an example of Beijing’s ambitions for wider security cooperation with African countries and, by extension, to increase its influence across the continent.

Source: NAP