Top 10 Most Powerful Military Forces In Africa

10 Most Powerful Military Forces In Africa

Many, if not all, African countries have strong military, but how does everyone fare when it comes to the strongest and weakest militaries in Africa?

Let’s look at one of the most reputable resources available to see which countries in the region have the best and weakest armed forces: The Global Fire power Index (GFP).

What is Global Fire Power Index?

GFP is a statistics-based website that is updated annually and tracks defense-related data from 140 countries. It is a completely independent resource.


To generate a country’s Power Index score, the Global Fire Power uses an in-house model that considers over 50 parameters.

The GPF considers, among other things, a country’s military budget, existing armament (air, land, and marine assets), economy, geography, labor force, natural resources, and population.

The GFP website further explains that, “the ranking is based on each nation’s prospective war-making capability across land, sea, and air waged by conventional weapons.” In 2006, the first rating was published.

The top four sports in world ranking according to Global Fire Power are currently occupied by nuclear nations such as the United States (US), Russia, and India. In the latest GFP rating, Japan is the only non-nuclear power in the top five.

The African Military Strength (2021) annual military evaluation includes 36 countries in total. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on only ten of them.

1. Egypt

Most powerful military forces in Africa
Egyptian military ranks as the most powerful military forces in africa

Egypt has a labor pool of around 36 million people that are ready to serve. According to Global Fire Power’s 2020 military strength ranking, the army has 440,000 active personnel and 480,000 reserve personnel.

Egypt has 215 fighter jets, 294 helicopters, and 81 attack helicopters in its air force.
There are also 4295 tanks, 11799 armored vehicles, 1139 self-propelled artillery, 2189 towed artillery, and 1084 rocket projectors in the Egyptian army’s arsenal.

Egypt’s naval forces include 45 patrol boats, 31 minesweepers, eight submarines, seven corvettes, seven frigates, and two aircraft carriers.

The Egyptian army has risen three places to ninth place out of 138 in the annual Global Firepower Index, surpassing numerous sophisticated militaries such as Turkey’s, Iran’s, and Israel’s.

2. Algeria

Most powerful military forces in Africa

Algeria’s army is ranked 27th out of 140 militaries in the world in 2021. With a total military manpower of 792,350, an active force of 520,000, and a reserve of 272,350, it is Africa’s second most formidable army behind Egypt.

The Algerian military has extensive counter-terrorism experience, having fought the jihadist threat since the early 1990s. In 2017, the Algerian government increased its defense expenditure to $10 billion, representing 6.24 percent of GDP and a 176 percent increase over 2004.

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According to SIPRI, the country was the largest importer of weaponry on the African continent in 2017, accounting for 46% of all imports.

The Algerian government made multibillion-dollar military equipment deals with Russia, China, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom in order to upgrade the country’s arsenal.

The country engaged in the development of its armament sector by constructing small arms and ammunition manufacturing units. It formed joint ventures with companies from the United Arab Emirates (Aabar Investments Fund), Germany (MTU Friedrichshafen and Deutsch AG), and Serbia (MTU Friedrichshafen and Deutsch AG) (Yugoimport).

In 2016, Algeria and Italy formed a joint venture in Ain Arnat to develop light and medium helicopters (West of Setif province). It’s worth noting that the army unveiled the first domestically built Mercedes Benz Actros four-wheel-drive trooper in 2015.

READ ALSO: 10 Most Dangerous Terrorist Groups In The World.

3. South Africa

South Africa ranks 32nd in the world in terms of military strength, behind Egypt (13th) and Algeria (27th) in Africa.

South Africa has 66,500 active personnel and 15,000 reserve personnel, according to the ranking.

It also predicts that the country has 14,025,000 inhabitants who would be able to serve if conscription rules were implemented.

South Africa is notable for its land might, but has recently lagged behind other nations in terms of air and naval power.

4. Nigeria

The most powerful military forces in Africa

The Nigerian military is one of Africa’s largest uniformed combat organizations, with more than 223,000 active members. The Nigerian Armed Forces are the fourth most powerful military forces in Africa, according to Global Firepower, and the 35th most powerful military in the world.

Today, the Nigerian military is confronted with a multitude of domestic difficulties that continue to jeopardize Nigerian and regional stability. The continuing fight in northeastern Nigeria against the Islamic rebel group Boko Haram, which has been in effect since July 2009, is one of these dangers.

Similarly, Nigeria has been involved in a long-running anti-piracy battle in the Niger Delta, which has put the country’s critical petroleum industry, which accounts for 40% of Nigeria’s exports and 85% of the government’s revenue, in jeopardy. The role of corruption in ongoing efforts to enhance the military forces adds to the current state of affairs.

Corruption has harmed the Nigerian military’s ability to deal with internal security challenges in the past, and is blamed for the persistence of rebels and terrorists operating across the country.

5. Morocco

Moroccan military forces are ranked 61st out of 137 countries in the Global Firepower Index. Morocco was also ranked sixth most powerful military forces in Africa in the survey.

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However, compared to the 2018 rankings, where it was rated 55th, the kingdom has dropped six positions.

Morocco’s airpower received the highest score. Morocco is the world’s 35th most powerful air force, according to the rating.

Morocco ranks 51st in the world and 8th in the MENA region in terms of military spending in 2019, with $3.4 billion spent.

Saudi Arabia is the Arab world’s and the world’s third-largest military spender, followed by the United Arab Emirates (16th) and Algeria (17th) (21st).

According to the index, half of the Moroccan population is in the age range for military duty.

Morocco’s army now boasts 346,000 men, with 196,000 on active duty and 150,000 in reserve.

Morocco has 291 aircraft, including fighter jets, transport and training planes, and helicopters.

Read More On The Moroccan Military Here.

6. Angola

The Angolan Armed Forces, Credit:

Angola’s military is known as the FAA (Angolan Armed Forces). The FAA consists of three components: the Army (Exército), the Navy (Marinha de Guerra), and the National Air Force (Força Aérea Nacional), as well as the General Staff of the Armed Forces.

In 2013, total manpower was estimated to be at 107,000. Since 2018, the FAA has been led by António Egdio de Sousa Santos, the Chief of the General Staff, who reports to the Minister of National Defense, Joo Ernesto dos Santos.

The army, navy, and air force of Angola now have an active force of up to 100,000 people, 585 armored battle vehicles, 300 tanks, 285 aircraft, and a navy of 57 ships. The country’s massive military budget is financed by its oil riches.

In May of this year, the army fired 88 generals and promoted 28 officers to various posts, including two admirals, one general, nine lieutenant-generals, 15 brigadiers, and one rear-admiral. In addition, the president named 66 officers to various leadership posts within the Angolan Armed Forces.

7. Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s armed forces are one of the largest and best-equipped militaries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with around 438,000 troops in uniform.

The defense apparatus included the 230,000-strong conscript army, supplemented by the 200,000-strong People’s Militia; the air force, with 4,500 soldiers; and the navy, with 3,500 personnel, including a marine contingent.

The 9,000-member Mobile Emergency Police Force and an undetermined number of border guards were not included in these estimates. The armed forces were also involved in internal security and counterinsurgency operations against the government’s political opponents, in addition to their duties as protectors of the country’s territorial integrity.

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8. Libya

most powerful military forces in africa
Libyan Natonal Army.

The Libyan Armed Units are the official organization in charge of Libya’s military defense, which includes ground, air, and naval forces.

Between 2015 and 2018, Khalifa Haftar organized several militias in the eastern portion of Libya into a proper hierarchical organization that became known as the Libyan National Army’s core after being designated as the supreme commander of the armed forces by the Libyan parliament in Tobruk in 2015.

Salafist militias and foreign mercenaries supplemented the LNA’s regular core (about 7000 soldiers) as of November 2019. (about 18000 soldiers).

The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) retained formal authority of the militias that make up the Libyan Army as of 2019, while the Libyan Air Force was divided into LNA and GNA-controlled components.

The GNA controlled the majority of the naval and coast guard units, with the LNA controlling certain coastal patrol boats. After the Second Libyan Civil War truce in 2021, all armed forces branches (excluding Haftar’s troops) will be under the leadership of the new President of Libya, Mohamed al-Menfi of the Government of National Unity.

9. Tunisia

most powerful military forces in africa

Since 2011, Tunisia’s defense sector has received an increasing amount of international military support. This is a unique opportunity.

Tunisia’s military has been purposefully kept weak for decades to avoid the country from following in the footsteps of its coup-plagued neighbors. Partnerships with the United States, European countries, and regional partners like Algeria are increasingly playing an important role in its development.

Tunisia’s defense industry is utilizing the chance to acquire international military assistance in order to update old military equipment, restructure its defense institutions and doctrine, and battle evolving security challenges linked to al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

10. Sudan

most powerful military forces in africa
Sudanese soldiers during a crowd disturbance in 2019.

Ranked as the 10th most powerful military forces in africa, the People’s Republic of China and Russia supplies the majority of Sudan’s military hardware. The Sudanese Military Industry Corporation is a weapons manufacturer.

The modern Sudanese Armed Forces are mostly armed with weapons made in the Soviet Union, Russia, China, Ukraine, and Sudan. The UN Expert Groups on the Sudan have made significant data on arms shipments to Sudanese forces available.

The regular issue battle rifle is presently the Dinar, an H&K G3 variation made in the United States by Military Industry Corporation.

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