December 7, 2022

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Turkey is betting on warplanes to strengthen ties with Africa


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host about 40 senior African officials in Istanbul during the Turkish-African Summit on December 17 and 18. Opportunity for Ankara to strengthen its ties with the continent by selling war drones, among other weapons.

What if Turkey succeeds in strengthening its ties with Africa? To its war drones ? This is the bet that Ankara puts on. Two months after focusing on investment and trade, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host about 40 senior African officials in Istanbul on December 17 and 18, including thirteen heads of state and two prime ministers, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. .

This new meeting should be the focus this time around On security issues, Turkey advertises its military equipment to African countries at low cost – and with flexible terms.

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Department of Defense, Turkey’s “new asset”

Ankara already has a military base in Somalia and Morocco and Tunisia delivered their first Turkish war drones in September.

Mr. Angola recently visited the oil-producing country of South Africa in October. During Erdogan’s first official visit, he became interested in such drones.

Turkey also signed a military cooperation agreement in August with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed, who is embroiled in a war against rebels in Tigris.

“The defense sector is a new asset: Turkey has pushed it too much, especially drones,” Federico Donelli, an international relations researcher at the University of Genoa in Italy, was interviewed by AFP. Ankara “provides not only its equipment but also training, as in Somalia,” he added.

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Bayraktar’s TB2 drone model, a private company run by one of the president’s nephews, has been in high demand following recent successes in Libya and Azerbaijan.

“Everywhere I go in Africa, people talk to me about drones,” Erdogan said after his tour of Angola, Nigeria and Togo.

Sharp increase in exports to Ethiopia

But above all, the possibility of an agreement with Ethiopia raises questions about the severity of the conflict in Tigris, which has killed thousands of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands.

According to Western sources, many devices have been provided, but Ankara had to bow to Western pressure and stop supplying to the Abi Ahmed regime. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the allegations, saying they were two “sovereign” countries and therefore had the power to seal their own agreements.

Official Turkish figures do not describe sales of military equipment, but only their monthly sums. And these have risen over the past year.

Turkey’s defense and aircraft exports to Ethiopia reached $ 94.6 million between January and November, up from $ 235,000 in the same period last year.

Figures provided by the Turkish Exporters’ Council show similar increases in Angola, Chad and Morocco.

UN Turkish drones were first spotted in 2019, after Ankara signed two security agreements with the accredited Libyan government. Tripoli unleashed these devices in the conflict zone, slowing the advance of rebel forces from the east with the support of Turkey’s regional rivals and paving the way for a gradual transition to an electoral process.

Triple the size of trade with Africa

Turkey last year cemented the reputation of its drones by helping Azerbaijan regain control of much of the territory it lost to Armenian separatists nearly three decades ago.

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“Now, with its drones, Turkey has more advantages than its sleeve when negotiating with other countries,” Federico Tonelli continues.

“We value the defense sector and our relations with Africa,” the head of Turkey’s Council for International Economic Relations told the AFP, an influential independent body, at the Istanbul Economic Forum in October.

“But it would be wrong to limit the sector to the sale of weapons, rockets, guns or tanks,” he said, citing the example of Turkish demining vehicles in Togo, which are industry-owned.

Federico Donnelly confirms this: he emphasizes the modernization plan of the Togolese army, which was carried out with the support of Turkey, which provides training and armored vehicles in addition to weapons and other equipment.

In support of President Erdogan’s goal of tripling the annual volume of trade with the continent, Turkey has gradually expanded its grip on Africa to $ 75 billion in the coming years, with a network of 37 military offices.

With AFP