Polish President Andrzej Duda’s trip to Africa this February, when he visited Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, was primarily to promote Poland’s weapons industry, with Poland attempting to build up goodwill and soft power.
The Polish president’s visit was certainly an event for the three countries concerned, and these African states rolled out the red carpet for him. According to portal Defense24.pl, the trip was meant to warm up serious business opportunities for the future in a region of the world where the population is expanding fast, along with consumption.
While Poland cannot compete with China in terms of scale, it can copy some of the best aspects of China’s strategy in Africa. One of Poland’s strengths is that like China, it does not have a colonial past in Africa and has an image of a country that has completed a successful political, social and economic transformation.
According to Dr. Aleksander Olech from Defense24.pl, Polish firms specializing in urban infrastructure should be in the market in that part of Africa, and Polish firms are already selling satellite and IT systems.
However, it is the arms industry which may have the best prospects. In 2023, Poland’s PGC state consortium signed a contract to supply Grot rifles to one of the central African countries, and in December, an agreement was signed to service Mi-17 transport helicopters in another. African countries are expressing genuine interest in Poland’s Grot rifles, which have been praised by Ukrainian soldiers, as well as Piorun missile launchers and Krab howitzers.
Poland has noted that Russia, which is a major arms supplier to Africa, is now limited by sanctions while also trying to fulfill its own military needs. The French have political problems in Africa, so this is the time to compete with the Chinese for the market opportunities that are opening up. Poland also has useful experience in modernizing and upgrading post-Soviet weapons, which are plentiful in Africa.
Analysts point out that Duda’s visit is just the start of an offensive to increase exports to Africa, which currently account for just 1.5 percent of total Polish exports but are targeted to more than double and account for 3 percent in coming years.