Most Powerful Countries In Africa (Top 20)

The most powerful countries in Africa are those with the strongest militaries, thus best able to defend their territories and people against any aggression.

It is surprising to find many highly rated countries unable to deal with insurgency and terrorism. That shows that they are not as powerful as once thought.

A powerful country should have a well-equipped and organized military, an intelligent leadership, and also a powerful economy that will not wither off when the spending starts.

Africa’s Most Powerful Countries

1. South Africa

South Africa should not be in Africa; the country is too organized, intelligent, and powerful. In terms of technology there is none to compare with South Africa, and the country actually stands at par with some European countries in terms of knowledge and research.

South Africa’s military has about 71,000 active personnel, and 21,000 in reserve. It is very well equipped; about half of its equipment are produced locally, while world renown engine manufacturers like MAN, IVECO, and AgustaWestland bring in the rest.

South Africa’s military budget is US$2.8 billion, but the economy is solid enough to withstand the strain of additional spending in the case of a long and protracted war. While there are countries with larger armies, they will most likely collapse under the strain of continued spending on any war against South Africa.

2. Egypt

Egypt is considered to be one of the strongest countries in Africa; it is somewhat militarized. The country has a population of about 109 million people, and located in North Africa, it has a land area of about 1,010,408km2.

Egypt is considered a regional power; it has a large military. The Egyptian military has about 438,500 active personnel, and another 479,000 in reserve. It’s yearly budget is US$4.8 billion.

Egypt has a less cohesive society than South Africa, it is also considerably less technologically advanced than South Africa. In terms of economy, Egypt is also behind South Africa.

If both countries were to spar; Egypt would have an initial advantage; but in the long run it would run out of money, and out of resolve to keep up the fight.

3. Algeria

Algeria is a north African country with the biggest land area in Africa. Algeria has a population of about 45 million people; it is by no means a pushover.

Algeria is considered a powerful country because it has been able to defend its vast territory; the Algerian army has about 520,000 active personnel, and another 150,000 in reserve. The Algerian military reserves supplies from Russia, Italy, Germany, china, and the USA.

Algeria has a good enough economy to keep up the military spending if the need should ever occur; in fact its military expenditure recently exceeded US$23 billion.

The country has access to the sea, and has enough food production to be self-sufficient regardless of a long military engagement. Any foes would certainly think twice before engaging Algeria in a conflict; the country is too well-armed and organized.

4. Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country in East Africa; it is landlocked, and has quite an arid topography. Nevertheless, this country is quite famous for its military prowess when it fought off the invading Europeans. If the Ethiopians of today are anything like their forefathers, then this should be one of the bravest and most difficult countries to defeat in military engagements.

The Ethiopian defense forces number some 350,000 active personnel, with another unknown number in reserve. Supplies come from Russia, china, Iran and turkey, and some equipment also comes from India.

Ethiopia can certainly overawe a smaller enemy; but its agricultural sector does not appear to be robust enough to support a long drawn conflict. However, if the men in uniform can somehow summon the resolve to fight on empty stomachs, Ethiopia can defeat any enemy.

5. Nigeria

Nigeria is a country in West Africa; depending on who you ask, its population is between 150-200 million people. No matter what sources you look up; Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa.

Nigeria has a sizable military; it has about 250,000 men in active service, and an unknown number in reserve. It gets military supplies from Russia, Serbia, USA, South Korea, China, Belgium, France, Canada, Belgium, and so on.

Nigeria’s economy and food production output have both suffered in recent years, and the country has been battling an insurgency for around ten years without success. The Nigerian Army is not very disciplined; and many cases of mutiny or desertion shows that there are many cracks in the military structure of the country.

Nigeria has fallen down the pecking order in Africa; but it is still quite formidable. Smaller countries would not dare engage this country in a fight, as Nigeria would simply demolish their defenses and occupy their land.

6. Morocco

Morocco is a country in north Africa; one that is both powerful and peaceful. The kingdom of morocco is a united force; one that occupies 446,300 km2 of land, and has a population of about 37 million people.

One must mention that this is a united country; while most other North African countries have thrown off their monarchies, morocco retains it’s, and continues to prosper.

This country has about 215,000 troops in its military; and another 150,000 in reserve. Equipment mostly comes from the United States.

In a protracted war, tourism based economies usually suffer; but Morocco is solid enough because it also produces (knitted) clothing, insulated wires, chemicals and fertilizer, and canned seafood.

7. Ivory Coast

The Ivory Coast is an interesting country in West Africa; interesting in the sense that it has power, even though that power hangs quite precariously.

This is often called the capital of French West Africa; it is the largest French speaking country in the region, and has so much to offer. Ivory Coast has a population of about 29 million, and a land area of about 322,463 km2.

Ivory Coast has arable land, access to the sea, and a diverse economy. This economy supports a military that numbers some 22,000 active personnel, and an unknown number in reserve. French forces numbering some 7,000 are also located near the capital of the country.

That is exactly the problem; the French seem to have a firm hold on the country, which means that it cannot advance its own interests. No country would dare invade Ivory Coast (except the French), but the country can turn on itself in an instant; a fight between those loyal to the French, and those who want true independence looks inevitable.

8. Senegal

Senegal is another country in West Africa; it is also French speaking, and also located in a position of advantage. Presently, Senegal is on the rise; it is taking steps to assert its sovereignty, and to ensure that it repels outside influence.

Senegal has a population of 18,384,660 people, living in a land area of 196,712 km2. The land is arable, and the country also has access to the sea; meaning that it would be quite difficult to effect a blockade against this country.

Senegal’s military numbers some 17,000 active personnel, and receives equipment and supplies from Canada, France, Vietnam, India, and the United States. Senegal’s army is very disciplined; it has proven its prowess in a number of peacekeeping engagements.

Furthermore, Senegal has quite a sustainable agricultural sector; which means that the food supply is not likely to be interrupted, and so the country would be able to keep fighting if a war were to break out.

9. Tunisia

Tunisia is another country in North Africa; it is a historically significant country; having been the site of Carthage; ancient Africa’s bravest heroes. However, Tunisia is quite small; it has a population of 11.7 million people, living in a land area that measures around 163,610 km2. The land has access to the sea; the coastlines are on the north and west.

Tunisia’s army numbers some 90,000 active personnel, with another 60,000 in reserve. Equipment comes from a long list of suppliers including Belgium, United States, Austria, Germany, France, Sweden, and Turkey.

Tunisia has a very competitive economy; tourism and energy are very important. Tunisia is also quite technologically advanced; the country is applying technology to improve agriculture so as to grow its economy and ensure food security- these things combine to make it one of Africa’s most powerful countries.

10. Mali

Mali is a country in West Africa; even though it is a landlocked country; it is very significant indeed. Mali is the site of one of Africa’s greatest empires; the Malian Empire; and the country is even now one of the biggest on the continent. Mali measures 1,241,238km2, and has a population of 21 million.

The army of Mali numbers some 40,000 professional soldiers; and there are another 4500 in reserve. The country has compulsory military service enforced; so it does not seem like they can easily run out bodies to through at the enemy. The important considerations include equipment, funding and food.

Equipment comes from Bulgaria, Russia, china, France, Ukraine, and the United States. The military spending is around USD300 million, and the country produces enough food to keep going in times of peril.

The following is a more extensive list of the 20 most powerful countries in Africa.

Rank Country Location
1 South Africa Southern Africa
2 Egypt North Africa
3 Algeria North Africa
4 Ethiopia East Africa
5 Nigeria West Africa
6 Morocco North Africa
7 Ivory Coast West Africa
8 Senegal West Africa
9 Tunisia North Africa
10 Mali West Africa
11 Ghana West Africa
12 Burkina Faso West Africa
13 Eritrea East Africa
14 Kenya East Africa
15 Uganda East Africa
16 Chad Central Africa
17 Mauritania Northwest Africa
18 Sudan North Africa
19 Guinea West Africa
20 Niger West Africa

Further Reading:


While looking at the most powerful countries in Africa; please pay attention to the fact that the article has woven in the economy, as well as the role of agriculture and food security in determining the overall strength of any nation.

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