Turkey’s growing influence in Africa of mutual benefit - Middle East Monitor

Turkey’s growing influence in Africa is mutually beneficial to both sides, with the continent providing untapped natural resources to be utilised by Ankara and Turkey creating infrastructure and jobs for African governments struggling with high youth unemployment, the Middle East Monitor said.

Turkey has picked up in the continent where it ruled before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, tripling trade links since 2005, when it was granted observer status in the African Union (AU), it said, pointing to Ankara’s shifting focus from Western partners.

Over the past decade, the country’s presence has been particularly strong in Somalia, where it has rebuilt Mogadishu and provided billions in aid. Turkey also maintains a military base in the capital, where it trains Somalian troops. 

In Sudan, Turkey also has several major projects, including the control of the former Ottoman port of Suakin.

In war-torn Libya,Turkish contractors have projects worth $19 billion, albeit on hold due to ongoing conflict.

“Turkey’s increasing interest in Africa stems from the fact that there is a huge potential to develop all the aspects of relations between Turkey and the African continent as a whole, especially on the economic level,” political analyst Ali Bakeer told the Middle East Monitor. 

“For example, Ankara’s trade volume with Africa increased from around $5.4 billion in 2003 to around $26 billion in 2019, with $16 billion exports to Africa,” Bakeer said.

Pointing out that Turkey has managed to avoid becoming embroiled in many of Africa’s local political conflicts, the article quoted Bakeer as saying Turkey’s advantage in the African continent lay in “relations free of colonial history and exploitation,’’ leading to relations and partnerships that are mutual.

Libya and Somalia are both countries with weak governments and armed groups vying to topple their internationally-recognised governments, the article said.

Two factors are driving Turkey’s involvement in Libya -  its regional rivalry with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which back an opposing faction in the country’s conflict - and Turkey’s desire to gain energy security, researcher and analyst Said Elhaj told the Middle East Monitor.

“It is of utmost importance for Turkey that Al-Sarraj’s government stand for Haftar and stay in power so that the agreement lasts long and guarantees both sides’ gains regarding gas,” Elhaj said.

Turkey throws its weight behind Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj. In December 2019, Turkey sent drones and other military hardware, along with thousands of Syrian mercenaries, many of whom have links to militant groups to Libya, in a move that helped the GNA to take back almost all the territories around the Libyan capital previously captured by its rival faction, the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalın on Sunday said Ankara may expand its cooperation with Libya’s GNA through energy and construction deals once the conflict in the north African country is over.

While Turkey’s role has become prominent and powerful in Libya, Elhaj said,  “it is still hard to say Turkey is a key player in Africa, as there are many international players there.’’