The international reporting of military expenditure data for African states is poor in many respects. Figures that are published are often at variance with the socio-economic realities of the countries. This study examines the availability and reliability of official military expenditure datafor six countries in West, Central and East Africa, using a combination of interviews with key actors in the military budgeting process and analysis of official documents in the countries selected. The author concludes that data are indeed available in many of these countries but that the quality ofthe data varies from country to country. Two main factors account for this - the influence of the donors of economic aid, whose insistence that artain certain maximum level of expenditure on defence should not be exceeded has encouraged the manipulation of data by the countries concerned; and thegeneral loss of capacity in several countries to compile the necessary statistics.