Turkey’s Expanding Presence in Africa


    Turkey is currently expanding its presence in Africa. In the last 20 years, trade has increased from $5 billion to over $25 billion in 2021. In addition, Turkey has sped up the approval of bilateral defence cooperation agreements with African countries in order to increase arms exports to the continent, due to pressure on its domestic economy [source]. 

    Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that Turkey’s economic presence in the African continent will increase over the next 6 months.

    • Turkey has increased its economic and political presence in Africa in the past years. In the words of the Foreign Ministry, ‘relations with Africa constitute one of the key objectives of Turkey’s foreign policy’. For instance, Ankara has significantly increased its diplomatic presence if the continent.

    • In 2009 Turkey had only 9 embassies in the African continent. Now, it has 43 diplomatic missions. In addition, since 2005, every year the Turkish President Erdogan had made a tour of Africa, each time visiting several countries. [source]

    • Turkey is also using aid in order to increase its influence and presence in Africa. In 2003, 60% of Turkish aid was channelled through international agencies such as the UN. Now, this percentage has decreased to 2%. In recent years, Ankara sends aid directly to African countries. [source]

    • In addition, Turkey’s increased presence in the continent can be observed through the development of trade relations. In 20 years, trade has increased from $5 billion to over $25 billion in 2021. In addition, Erdogan has expressed his willingness to double the trade volume with Africa from $25 billion to $50 billion.  [source]

    • Furthermore, according to officials, Turkish firms have completed projects worth $78 billion, including airports, stadiums, and mosques. For instance, in 2021 Tanzania awarded a Turkish firm a contract worth $1.9 billion to build a railway line. [source]

    Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that military cooperation and arms exports with Africa will increase over the next 6 months. 

    • Turkey’s military commitments to Africa have recently accelerated in terms of both defence agreements and arms contracts. In fact, in recent months, Turkey has sped up the approval of bilateral defence cooperation agreements with African countries in order to increase the arms exports to the continent. 

    • In 2021, the value of Turkey’s arms sales in Africa rose by over 700% to $328 million, from $41 million in 2020. In addition, in only the first two months of 2022, arms exports to Africa were worth $140 million. [source]

    • In the past two years, the number of trade and defence pacts has exponentially increased. In fact, Ankara has already concluded 16 trade and defence pacts with African countries. For instance, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Somalia all have defence pacts with Turkey. These provisions include the purchase of rifles, tanks, and drones. [source]

    • In addition, in August 2021, Morocco purchased 13 Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat air vehicles worth $70 million. In the same month, Tunisia concluded a contract worth $80 million acquiring the same UAVs. [source]

    • An important factor in Turkey’s success in arms exports to Africa is that Turkey does not have a long export approval process for arms. Unlike the EU and US, which stop arms sales to countries that commit war crimes, Turkey is unconcerned about how its weapons are used. For instance, its drones are deemed to have killed dozens of civilians during Ethiopia’s civil war.  [source]

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 10th of June 2022

    Arianna Sparviero
    Arianna Sparviero
    Arianna Sparviero is a graduate student at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is currently enrolled in the first year of the master course in International Affairs.

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