(Photo credit: Gleb Garanich/Reuters)
An exclusive report by Middle East Eye (MEE), released on 16 November, has detailed the boost in Turkish arms sales to several African countries over the past few years, signifying Ankara’s growing role as a leading weapons provider.
According to the report, Algeria is currently on the brink of signing an agreement with Turkey to purchase its Anka-10 drones, produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The North African country’s regional rival, Morocco, reportedly also ordered a fleet of 13 Bayraktar TB2 drones in 2021.
Last year, Niger became the first overseas customer to order the Hurkus turboprop attack plane, also produced by TAI. Chad and Libya have ordered the aircraft as well, MEE reports, with Nigeria and Ethiopia also acquiring Turkish-made drones and patrol boats.
“Turkey’s defense equipment exports to Africa are completely unprecedented in terms of quantity, quality, value, and reach … This reality should not be separated from the rise of Ankara’s influence in the continent and its strategy to strengthen the political, economic, and security ties with several African countries,” Dr. Ali Bakir of the US-based Atlantic Council think-tank said.
Bakir also made the point that the lack of colonial history between Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa in particular makes Ankara’s weapons sales to the continent attractive. Other factors include cheap prices, as well as the fact that Turkish weapons have been tried and battle-tested in a number of international conflicts, including the war in Syria and in Ukraine.
Reinforcing his comments, the Director of Strategy and Innovation at the Newsline Institute, Nicholas Heras, told MEE that Turkey’s defense industry “has a proven ability to produce weapons systems quickly, efficiently, and in bulk.”
Heras added that Turkish arms and military equipment are appealing to African states, as they do not come with “human rights strings attached,” or political conditions, as opposed to US arms, which make their way to countries within Washington’s political sphere of influence.
On 28 October, Turkish defense company Baykar – the manufacturer of Ankara’s Bayraktar drones – announced its plans to complete the construction of a drone manufacturing plant in Ukraine. A month earlier, Ankara delivered 20 drones to the UAE.
Other countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, have expressed an interest in buying Turkish drones.
As Turkey suffers through an economic crisis fueled by severe inflation, the bolstering of its defense industry and its signing of arms deals with a number of African and non-African countries could potentially help boost the country’s economy.