NEWTOWN, Conn., Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Africa is an increasingly attractive market for international arms and military equipment suppliers as economies and defense spending grow.
Market research and analysis firm Forecast International said in a report titled The Military Market for Africa the continent's overall arms market has traditionally been driven by a small handful of key players with more established economic environments but the situation has now changed.
With smaller market countries increasingly taking positive steps toward democracy and overall stability, and governments focusing more on creating strong economies, it's projected that defense spending among African nations will surpass $46 billion by 2018, Forecast International said.
"As optimism about the continent's prospects increases, global defense firms have started to eye the African market more closely," said the report's author, Nicole Auger. "It has ignited an intense competition between non-African defense companies while opening up an array of possible joint ventures and technology transfer agreements with African defense firms."
Nation-on-nation war among African countries has been on the decline, the report noted, and although conflicts between countries still flare up on occasion they rarely escalate to extreme levels.
If the trend continues, decade-long sanctions and arms embargoes could be lifted and opportunities for global defense firms would expand, particularly in the area of internal security products and services.
"Key arms purchases will likely be state-of-the-art surveillance equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles and electronics," to counter the threat of rising Islamic fundamentalism within some countries.
Porous borders, illegal arms trafficking, and challenging socio-economic conditions have made it difficult for nations to control this escalating problem, the IF report said. North African nations have already experienced firsthand how the lack of proper military surveillance equipment can handicap their militaries and security forces.
As an example, the report cited Mali, where Islamic militants suspected of having ties to the terrorist group al-Qaida staged a rebellion in 2011 and now control the north of the country -- where they are being battled by French expeditionary forces called in to aid the country.
Libya, the report noted, has found it "nearly impossible" to control the rebel-run southern portion of the nation following the rebellion that toppled dictator Moammar Ghadafi. Chaos in the country has sparked increased weapon smuggling, which threatens regional security.
Elsewhere on the continent Somalia's terrorist group al-Shabaab has been showing signs of evolving into a transnational terror group; rebel groups have grabbed control of major towns in the oil producing region of South Sudan; and Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, is roiling Nigeria with massacres, bombings and other acts of violence.
"Globally, there is concern that terrorism in Africa could spread, affecting the stability of non-African countries," Forecast International said. "A number of Western nations are therefore eager to help equip African militaries, which remain open to practically all weapons suppliers."