Africa: War Costs Continent U.S. $18 Billion Annually

10 October 2007

Washington, D.C. — A new study shows that conflicts in Africa cost the continent over 300 billion U.S. dollars between 1990 and 2005 – an amount equivalent to all the international aid received by sub-Saharan Africa in the same period.

The results of the study were released Thursday in a report by Oxfam International, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Saferworld. The report is the first to show, on a large scale, the effect of conflict on Africa's gross domestic product (GDP).

The report, entitled "Africa's Missing Billions: International Arms Flows and the Cost of Conflict", compares the economies of countries at war with those of countries experiencing peace. According to the report, an average "war, civil war, or insurgency shrinks an African economy by 15 percent," and the continent loses about 18 billion U.S. dollars a year to conflict.

In a statement released with the report, Irungu Houghton, a policy advisor with Oxfam, called the results of the study "shocking," noting that the figures were "almost certainly an under-estimate." According to the statement, the methodology used in the study does not measure the cost of influxes of refugees on neighboring countries or the costs of maintaining peace, rebuilding economies and other consequences of conflict.

The report also estimates that more than 95 percent of the Kalashnikov rifles commonly used in African conflicts are brought in from outside the continent.

Joseph Dube, an Africa coordinator with IANSA, called the statement for all African governments and other weapons-producing governments to support a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

"The government whose factory produces the rifle is as responsible as the government who permits its ships to transport them… Without… regulation, the cost and suffering borne by Africans will continue to be immense," he added.

The United Nations General Assembly in October 2006 passed a draft resolution to form a team to study the "scope and feasibility" of an international Arms Trade Treaty. The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution, which would help mark and trace illicit small arms and light weapons. Twenty-four other countries, including Somalia, Sudan, China and Russia, abstained.

In a foreword to the Oxfam/IANSA report, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appealed to governments to be bold in working for the ATT, calling the treaty "an opportunity to agree tough controls on the arms trade that would significantly help reduce armed violence in Africa and across the world."

Sirleaf emphasized the impact of conflict beyond combat: "In my own country, conflict has led to the squandering of rich mineral, agricultural, and human resources that should have benefited Liberia and its people. Although economic recovery has begun, it will take many years to recover from the destruction of infrastructure, the damage to businesses, and the loss of life and livelihood."

The First Committee of the UN General Assembly is discussing the Arms Trade Treaty this week.

From our archive:

Kenya Joins UN Drive Against Small Arms

Sierra Leone: Recalling the Dangers of Small Arms [opinion]

Arms Treaty Consultations in Arusha

Liberia Hosts Gun Free Workshop

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