Countering rise of Turkey’s clout in Africa

Countering rise of Turkey’s clout in Africa

The three-day tour of West Africa completed by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Friday was deemed to have been crowned a success as countries such as Ivory Coast, Gabon and Ghana share a common understanding with Greece of what the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates.

The tour, which sought to deepen Greece’s relations with this part of Africa, was also part of a wider effort to counter Turkey’s growing influence in the continent.

It was no coincidence that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also recently visited five African countries.

Turkey’s efforts to gain a foothold and leading role in Africa have already borne fruit, with the Economist reporting that the number of Turkish diplomatic missions on the continent has almost quadrupled in the last 10 years (from 12 to 43). Indicatively, Turkish trade with Africa has reached almost $30 billion, of which $11 billion concerns transactions with sub-Saharan countries.

What’s more, Turkey has in recent years gradually begun to transform its considerable soft power into hard power.

From the Sahel to Somalia, Turkish military forces and defense equipment are becoming an increasingly frequent feature on the battlefields of the African continent. 

Tellingly, the Turkish Army maintains a military base and training center in Somalia. However, perhaps Turkey’s most important partner in the region is Niger, which has become a protagonist in the battle against Islamist forces operating in the Sahel following the coup in Mali. 

Among Libya’s southern neighbors, Niger has already purchased significant military equipment from Turkey, notably Bayraktar TB2 drones, and has also ordered 12 Turkish Hurkus training planes.

The defense systems that Turkey has developed are very popular on the continent, as they are much cheaper than the Western competition and also do not come with the same safeguards and treaties regarding their use, especially with regard to human rights issues.

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