Kenya’s defence budget grows ahead of Africa peers in 2013

KDF soldiers celebrate outside the Kismayu University after they took control from Al Shabaab militia. Photo/FILE|Salaton Njau
KDF soldiers celebrate outside the Kismayu University after they took control from Al Shabaab militia. Photo/FILE|Salaton Njau  

Kenya’s defence budget last year rose faster than its African peers as regional armies deepened their arms build-up in the face of new threats from groups like the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab.

Kenya increased its defence budget 20 per cent in the year to June to Sh74.1 billion ($861million), which was higher than Africa’s mean budget which rose 8.3 per cent to Sh3.8 trillion, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) says. The institute researches on conflict and arms control.

All East African countries grew their defence budgets at a faster pace than the continent’s average, with Tanzania coming top with a 34.4 per cent growth to Sh32.7 billion, underlining the arms race in the region.

Kenya’s military expenditure has also been rising in the last decade. The country spent only Sh14 billion on the military in 2000 compared to more than Sh60 billion in 2012.

Reasons for the increased budget, Sipri says, include competition for regional military superiority and threats from Somalia where the region’s armies, including Kenya’s, are fighting Al-Shabaab under the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom).


“Spending depends on the need to meet security challenges such as for peacekeeping in Somalia,” Samuel Perlo-Freeman, Sipri military expenditure programme director told the Business Daily in an e-mail response.

Budgetary constraints

Kenya’s incursion into neighbouring Somalia has consumed more than Sh25 billion whose reimbursement Nairobi is urgently seeking from the United Nations to ease its budgetary constraints.

Kenya launched an incursion into Somalia in response to incessant attacks and kidnappings by Al-Shabaab militants within its territory. Kenya formally sent 4,660 soldiers to Somalia in October 2011.

A year later, the UN Security Council, gave Kenya the green light to join Amisom, a decision that meant it would not bear the full cost of the incursion.

According to Global Firepower, a website that asses the military strength of nations, Kenya ranks at position six on the continent behind Egypt, Algeria, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria.

Kenya boasts of 186 tanks, 2,000 armoured fighting vehicles, 50 towed artillery, 12 multiple-launch rocket systems, 134 aircraft and 66 helicopters, the website says. But on defence budgets Kenya has the eighth largest budget excluding Libya which was not ranked last year.  

Major arms deals

To compile details of the arms purchases, Sipri researchers get information from several open sources and focus on major arms deals.

Overall, Africa’s spending on its army rose the highest globally last year — 8.3 per cent to Sh3.8 trillion ($44.9 billion) which accounted for 2.5 per cent of the total global expenditure (Sh150.4 trillion or $1.75 trillion).

The study showed that global military expenditure fell 1.9 per cent last year, the second drop in a row.