Turkey’s Focus on Africa: Energy Security, Political Influence and Economic Growth

turkey's military base in somalia

Somalilandsun: Turkey, which has based its economic growth on export development and made significant strides in recent years (especially during the AKP administration) has taken a strategic approach to the African continent in search of new markets. Moreover, it is seeking to expand its political, economic and commercial presence on the continent. Turkey, as a country that has a positive outlook on globalization and seeks to develop strategies to optimize the use of the gains of the process to minimize its consequences, has made extensive efforts to diversify relations in recent years. Experts attribute Ankara’s approach to the African continent to several important factors, including “the existence of Turkey’s historical and traditional relations with North African countries on the southern coast of the Mediterranean.”


Turkey has been trying to increase its share of economic and trade relations with Africa since the beginning of its relationship with African countries. For the past five years, Turkey, along with Brazil, China and India, has been one of the four non-African countries with the largest presence on the continent. Turkey has made exports amounting to $11.5 billion to the African continent during the first nine months of this year. Industrial products account for the largest share of Turkish exports to African countries. According to the data released by the Turkish Census Bureau, the volume of trade between Turkey and the African countries also increased by 14,1% compared to that of the previous year.

Turkey in the Horn of Africa


Turkey is defining its political, cultural and scientific strategies for effective economic presence in Africa and pursuing its activities in each area efficiently. In this context, before Turkish economic diplomacy in Africa was activated, cultural diplomacy was initially established in the form of humanitarian aid, Turkish language education and health care on the continent. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the Education Foundation, the Red Crescent, the Turkish Youth Foundation and the Yunus Emre Cultural Institute have been the most active humanitarian and cultural diplomacy agencies on the African continent in recent years.


By 2019, Turkey had exported industrial and other products amounting to $11.5 billion to Africa. Industrial products account for the largest share of Turkish exports to African countries. According to data released by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), trade volume between Turkey and African countries also increased by 11% at the end of 2018, in contrast to the year 2017. The focus is now on enhancing the continent’s industrialization and development and launching new manufacturing industries on the free market across the continent. Turkish businessmen are investing in African countries with government support. Turkish businessmen should carefully examine the industry data of the past 10 years of the countries in which they intend to invest, including their banking system and rate of return. In this way, they will invest wisely and avoid loss of capital.


Somalia plays a major role in Turkey’s macroeconomic and economic development policies because of its long borders with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and the potential role it could play in communicating with foreign countries to East Africa. Somalia’s importance in Turkish foreign policy is a result of its strategic position as well as its consumer market, which could add to Ankara’s economic and political potential in the Middle East region and the African continent. Due to its coastal borders with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and the strategic strait of the Bab el-Mandeb, which is the point between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, it has a special place in the strategic policies of many countries. Somalia’s strategic position was elevated after the opening of the Suez Canal, which connected the Mediterranean Sea through the Red Sea and the Aden Strait to the Indian Ocean.

Turkey has made large investments in the areas of education and health, which government officials have said to be essential. The most modern hospital in Mogadishu is Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital, made by Turkey. Moreover, more than a thousand Somalian students have pursued their education in Turkey.


In September 2017, Turkey opened the largest foreign military training center in Somalia and staffed it with senior officials. Built near the Somali capital’s Mogadishu airport, it has the capacity to train soldiers and military personnel. According to Somali military command, the center will also receive weapons and military supplies from the Turkish government. Turkey’s military industry views Somalia and the surrounding countries as a market for weapons and equipment. Its defense exports are now over $1 billion. Strengthening the export of military products, in addition to strengthening Ankara’s military-security ties with Africa, will be an opportunity to avoid the impact of Turkey’s political tensions on its economy and labor market.

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