Growing Turkish Influence in the Sahel: A Situational Assessment

Turkish influence in the Sahel, although still limited compared to its involvement in other African countries, has grown significantly in the past decade. In 2005, when Turkey announced the ‘Year of Africa’, their relations with Africa began to significantly deepen. This initially came as increased humanitarian aid and education infrastructure support. However, this has recently manifested in more assertive forms, through greater military and weaponry provisions. Turkey’s economic and political insecurities since 2016 have resulted in increased demand for stronger political ties outside of the West. This has contributed to Turkey’s foreign policy focus on the Sahel, particularly in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The recent rejection of French colonial legacies in the Sahel has also left behind a power vacuum. Turkey has used this to its advantage, emphasising its unique non-interventionist approach, which focuses on mutual cooperation.

Key Judgement 1. Turkey’s motives in the Sahel are likely to be primarily economic and trade-related, because of the Sahel’s substantial resources and access to key international trade routes.

Key Judgement 2. Turkey’s increasing military influence is likely to have significantly strengthened their relations with the Sahel, and boosted their international reach.

 Key Judgement 3. Growing Turkish influence in the Sahel is highly likely to be further driven by domestic instability and increasing division between the East and West.

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