Top Most Powerful Militaries in Africa

These are the top African powers ranked by military strength. Factors considered in the ranking include budget allocated for defence, human resource, and the firepower owned by the countries.

01. South African National Defence Force

Defence Budget: $ 4,610,000,000
Active Frontline Personnel: 78,050
Active Reservists: 16,000
Tanks: 195     Aircraft: 231     Naval Vessels: 30

South Africa is situated on the southernmost tip of the continent and is home to Africa's most powerful military. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is also one of the most modern and well equipped with superior arms and equipment. South Africa manufactures most of its own military hardware, unlike the other African countries which lack such industrial capability and largely rely on foreign imports. Among its naval strength are 4 Frigates and 3 Submarines which make the South African Navy one of the few maritime forces in Africa that own such powerful warships.

02. Nigeria Armed Forces

Defence Budget: $ 2,330,000,000
Active Frontline Personnel: 124,000
Active Reservists: 57,000
Tanks: 148     Aircraft: 110     Naval Vessels: 75

Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria is often referred to as the Giant of Africa. It is also the continent's largest economy with a $500 billion estimated GDP. The Nigerian Armed Forces are the second most powerful military in Africa and are equipped with a mix of superior American, European, Israeli and Chinese made arms and equipment. The country has also begun manufacturing its own military hardware such as the Igirigi Armored Personnel Carriers and the NNS Andoni warship. The Nigerian Navy also owns 2 Frigates.

03. Ethiopian National Defence Force

Defence Budget: $ 340,000,000
Active Frontline Personnel: 185,500
Active Reservists: 0
Tanks: 800     Aircraft: 80     Naval Vessels: 0

Ethiopia is Africa's longest independent country, second-largest in terms of population and also one of the world's oldest countries. The Horn of Africa was rendered landlocked after Eritrea, its former province along the Red Sea, seceded in 1993 hence the Ethiopian National Defence (ENDF), the third most powerful military in Africa, does not have a Navy. The military's inventory is largely dominated by USSR era made arms and equipment. Ethiopia also has a Defense Industry Sector that produces weaponry for the army.

04. Forcas Armadas Angolanas 

Defence Budget: $ 4,150,000,000
Active Frontline Personnel: 90,000
Active Reservists: 30,000
Tanks: 244     Aircraft: 285     Naval Vessels: 57

A civil war which lasted for almost 3 decades and ended in 2002 has not deterred Angola from producing the fourth most powerful military in Africa. Situated in southern Africa, the country has since been rebuilding itself using its large oil reserves. The Angolan Armed Forces, also known as Forcas Armadas Angolanas (FAA) in Portuguese, operate a large amount of Soviet-era and Russian-made equipment.

05. Kenya Defence Forces

KDF soldiers in Somalia

Defence Budget: $ 595,000,000
Active Frontline Personnel: 24,150
Active Reservists: 5,000
Tanks: 76     Aircraft: 131     Naval Vessels: 19

Kenya is situated on the equator on Africa's east coast. The country is the economic and transport hub of East Africa and since 2014 the World Bank has ranked it as a lower middle-income country due to its growth in GDP per capita. The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are the fifth strongest in Africa, a relatively small but lethal military and are the heroes responsible for liberating neighboring Somalia from the Al Shabaab terrorists. KDF is armed with foreign made arms and equipment but also stocks up on superior hardware manufactured locally in the state-owned Kenya Ordnance Factories Corporation.

06. Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Defence Budget: $ 162,000,000
Active Frontline Personnel: 155,000
Active Reservists: 1,500
Tanks: 200     Aircraft: 41     Naval Vessels: 20

The Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa is vast and well endowed with immense natural resource wealth but unfortunately, the country's economy is struggling due to corruption and a civil war that has claimed up to 6 million lives. The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) is Africa's sixth strongest military but most of the equipment in their inventory is said to be old, obsolete and unserviceable.  



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