n African Security Review - African military spending : defence versus development? : feature

Volume 15, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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This paper aims to extract empirical regularities from the extensive but often contentious econometric literature on the relationship between military expenditure ('milex') and socioeconomic development in the Third World, with special reference to Africa. It finds that African states invest in defence at low levels by global standards, and their defence burdens correspond to political, security, and economic realities. Security conditions are the main drivers of military spending, which in turn produces a complex mix of socioeconomic effects. Such relationships are not uniform across large heterogeneous groups of countries, but are mediated systematically by specific structural economic, political, and security conditions (eg resource-rich versus resource-constrained, conflict vs non-conflict, arms producers versus arms importers). Presumably, other yet-to-be-hypothesised intervening factors will also prove to be determinants of milex-development patterns among Third World and African countries. We can state with confidence that (1) milex produces a mix of both positive and negative effects that vary across countries; (2) its overall effects, whether positive or negative, are usually not pronounced; and (3) the modal economic impact of defence spending in the Third World is slightly negative, more so in Africa. Negative relationships between defence and development are most evident and severe in countries experiencing legitimacy / security crises and economic / budgetary constraints. Among the implications of these findings are that 'one size fits all' analytical or policy models of defence - development relationships are problematic and prone to failure. Considering that milex provides a public good (security), its negative socioeconomic effects are not excessive, at least in states enjoying higher legitimacy, socioeconomic standards, and peace. Ironically, states that enjoy relative peace and plenty reap more economic benefits from defence spending, while those afflicted by conflict and poverty pay higher economic costs for their defence. In the larger scheme of things, conflict- and poverty-reduction efforts will likely produce more beneficial milex-growth linkages than well-intended appeals to reduce military spending in favour of development.

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