Turkey’s Relations with Africa Blossom as Lucrative Arms Market Beckons

Turkey’s Relations with Africa Blossom as Lucrative Arms Market Beckons

Ankara increasingly competing with France, Russia, China for influence, resources

Istanbul is hosting a partnership summit on Friday and Saturday as the Anatolian nation seeks to strengthen ties with African countries. Thirty-nine leaders and top ministers, including 13 presidents, are due to attend the conference.

With the emergence of new global and regional powers, Africa is becoming a battleground for many nations seeking to benefit from the continent’s rich natural resources, rapidly increasing population and free markets.

The Third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit follows another important gathering in October of a top-level business forum that centered on investment and trade.

“Turkey sees Africa as a new investment opportunity,” says Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, an expert on Turkey at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.

“[President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s economic prosperity model is based on increasing his country’s exports; therefore Africa is acknowledged as a potential market,” Cohen Yanarocak told The Media Line.

Historic ties with the region and a shared faith aid Ankara in establishing strong relations with African countries, he says.

“Turkey has no colonial past in the continent. The Ottoman rule in North Africa is not considered as an exploitation regime but as friendly Islamic rule,” Cohen Yanarocak says.

Sudanese journalist Mohammed Mustafa told The Media Line that Western governments have a long history of supporting dictatorships “to serve their own business interests. They looted the continent’s resources.”

Ankara over the past 15 years has implemented an Africa policy focused on providing humanitarian aid, facilitating economic ties, and increasing its diplomatic missions to countries in the continent.

“Turkey’s actions in Africa mostly challenge France. Turkey inaugurated new embassies in many African nations,” says Cohen Yanarocak.

In October, Erdoğan went on a four-day tour of Angola, Togo and Nigeria, and he has made official visits to 30 out of Africa’s 54 countries.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s vision of cooperation with Africa is “based on a policy of mutual gain based on equality, transparency, and sustainability.”

Mustafa says “Africa can offer a lucrative arms market to Turkey, while it provides an alternative to Russian weapons.”

A Turkish military expansion is underway as Ankara opens bases in places like Somalia – its largest overseas military training center − and Libya, while Morocco and Tunisia reportedly received their first deliveries of Turkish combat drones in September.

Ankara now has military attachés in 19 countries.

Mustafa says Turkey offers affordable military hardware that many African nations are interested in buying.

“Its military equipment is battle-tested, its drones performed superbly in several places and they are highly sought-after.”

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Moscow is the primary weapons seller to the African arms market, accounting for 49% of the continent’s imports between 2015 and 2019.

Ankara has 43 embassies in Africa, up from 12 in 2003. Meanwhile, total trade between Turkey and Africa increased from $5.4 billion in 2003 to $25.3 billion in 2020.

Mustafa says that after decades of civil wars, and political instability left many countries with massive debt, “China will work with you if you have debt, but you have to sign everything over to it.

“Africa now is relatively stable and going through an economic boom with its young population,” and should benefit from that, he adds.

China and France have been working hard at strengthening their presences in Africa, with periodic high-level meetings such as this past October’s New Africa-France Summit, massive strategic investment, trade plans and loans.

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