Debate on the ‘securitization’ of aid and international development since 9/11 has been anchored in two key claims: that the phenomenon has been driven and imposed by western governments and that this is wholly unwelcome and deleterious for those in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world. This article challenges both of these assumptions by demonstrating how a range of African regimes have not only benefited from this dispensation but have also actively encouraged and shaped it, even incorporating it into their own militarized state-building projects. Drawing on the cases of Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda—four semi-authoritarian polities which have been sustained by the securitization trend—we argue that these developments have not been an accidental by-product of the global ‘war on terror’. Instead, we contend, they have been the result of a deliberate set of choices and policy decisions by these African governments as part of a broader ‘illiberal state-building’ agenda. In delineating this argument we outline four major strategies employed by these regimes in this regard: ‘playing the proxy’; simultaneous ‘socialization’ of development policy and ‘privatization’ of security affairs; making donors complicit in de facto regional security arrangements; and constructing regime ‘enemies’ as broader, international threats.