Turkey, a power that counts in the defense of Africa (ANALYSIS)

AA / Istanbul / Dr Mursel Bayram

(Doctor Mürsel Bayram analyzed, for Anadolu Agency, the cooperation between Turkey and African countries in the field of defense industry)

Turkey’s investment scope in the African continent is gradually expanding. At the end of 2021, Turkey, which has managed to become one of the main development partners of African countries with a trade volume of 30 billion dollars and investment projects worth 78 billion dollars, has also excelled, with a breakthrough in the field of defense industry, as a partner in the security field of African States.

While in 2020 around $83 million worth of defense industry products were exported from Turkey to Africa, this figure rose to over $288 million just a year later.

Almost half of African states have signed a defense cooperation agreement with Turkey, so far 14 states (Burkina Faso, Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal , Somalia, Rwanda and Uganda) imported various weapons and military vehicles from Turkey.

The participation of a large number of African ministers in the 15th edition of the International Defense Industry Exhibition, held in Istanbul in 2021, shows that African States are increasingly demanding defense products. Turkish defense industry.

Africa Defense Group and Atlantis Group from the Republic of South Africa participated in this fair, while Turkish companies continue their efforts to promote themselves by participating in defense industry fairs in Africa.

– Increased defense requirements

The revival of Turkish-African defense relations is linked to the fact that conflicts that threaten the sovereignty and security of African states have increased in intensity over the past 20 years. The question of regional geopolitical competition between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara, the internal conflicts in Ethiopia over Tigray and the question of relations with Egypt due to the construction of the dam on the Nile, or even the threat from al-Shabaab in Kenya and Somalia, are some of the conflicts that have recently threatened security in Africa. As well as the increasing attacks by al-Qaeda-linked groups particularly in Mali and throughout the Sahel region, the effects of the civil war in the Central African Republic, the forcible repression of Ambazonia separatists in Cameroon, the continued the bloody actions of the Boko Haram organization in Nigeria, the recent bombings in Uganda and the Daesh threat that extends to Mozambique.

The increasing intensity of conflicts fuels the trend towards militarization, which is reflected both in the series of coups in Sudan, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, but also in the fact that continental states allocate more budgets for defense spending.

Total defense spending by African states increased from around $19 billion in 2000 to over $45 billion in 2014. A decline was seen since 2014 before rising once more following 2018.

Total defense spending reached around $60 billion in 2021. The rate of increase in military spending reaches much higher levels in conflict zones. For example, between 2016 and 2020, arms imports by Burkina Faso increased by 83%, while those of Mali recorded a staggering increase of 669%.[4] In this context, it can be said that there is a correlation between the growing defense needs of African countries and their interest in Turkish defense products.

– Other actors on the continent

The main arms suppliers to African countries are Russia, China, France and the United States. Russia’s military influence is growing more and more. Considering the total defense spending of $60 billion by African states in 2021, the $288 million Turkish defense industry exports to Africa represent only 0.5% share. Steps.

However, many African states are known to want to diversify their security partners and arms suppliers. Therefore, besides the main listed vendors, a wide range of vendors stand out like Germany, Britain, Italy, Israel, Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania, Iran, and North Korea .

– The importance of technology transfer

Turkey, which can produce attractive weapons in terms of profitability and value for money, such as the Bayraktar TB2 drone, is also becoming an alternative supplier for African states.

Ankara, which cares regarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of African states, can shift the balance of power in conflict areas in favor of legitimate governments with full military training support and high-tech products to the defense industry. This visible success in Libya and Ethiopia makes defense cooperation with Turkey attractive to African states.

The main factor that can enhance Turkey’s defense investments in Africa is the transfer of technology and the building of military capabilities. It is difficult to mention a significant transfer of technology, except for the installation of already exported systems. This situation is not inherent in Turkey. Each country considers as a state secret the information on the technology of the weapons that it produces. Therefore, the area where states are least willing to share information and technology is the defense industry. In addition, the lack of developed industrial infrastructure in Africa is also a serious impediment to technology transfer.

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– The example of North Korea

While comparison is not right, it is worth mentioning the example of North Korea in terms of demonstrating the importance that African states place on technology transfer and military capacity building. Because most of the countries that have established military ties with North Korea in recent years, despite United Nations (UN) sanctions, are from the African continent.

Eritrea, Libya, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Tanzania import various military equipment from North Korea. It was reported that Mozambique and Uganda transferred military equipment for testing and reverse engineering purposes and received training and consultancy services for the production, maintenance and use of such equipment.

Cooperation in military production significantly explains why African states insist on cooperation with such a country despite sanctions. Most non-continental actors are engaged in arms sales to African states and provide military support in various ways to gain diplomatic and economic leverage.

Unlike a standard military relationship, North Korea preferred to establish arms factories in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria and Uganda. Although Pyongyang’s investments in the defense industry of African countries provide short-term gains, this situation means long-term losses. Because the development of national defense industries by African countries means that they will not have military dependence on North Korea.

North Korea’s contribution to building the defense capabilities of African states, albeit at a modest level, leads continental states to make a strategic choice between the long-term benefits of maintaining cooperation with Pyongyang and the cost to short term violation of international sanctions. Even if the contribution mentioned does not correspond to the construction of a modern military capacity, it can be important for African states because it differs logically from that of other actors.

– ASELSAN South Africa is a milestone

Of course, Turkey and North Korea are incomparably different countries in terms of political and economic structure. Turkey is not a state isolated from the world by international sanctions, nor a country that maintains a Cold War mentality in terms of weapons or weapons technology.

The conclusion that can be drawn from the example of North Korea in the African context is that, while even a marginal state can become a privileged partner for military capacity building, Turkey can do so much more easily. Turkey, which is economically integrated with the world and which can produce high-tech defense systems that are particularly effective in the fight once morest terrorism, will excel as a different player and create a stronger military partnership profile than ever if it takes measures to strengthen the defense capabilities of African states.

ASELSAN South Africa (ASA), founded in 2011 in South Africa, is an important step in this direction. ASA operates in the fields of engineering with electro-optical and opto-mechanical systems. Aselsan Afrique thus enables the promotion and marketing of products and the establishment of cooperation with local companies such as Paramount Advanced Technologies.

Increasing these partnerships will allow Turkey’s defense investments in Africa to turn into long-term cooperation on a more realistic basis. Of course, it must be taken into account that on this path Turkey will not only have to compete with great powers such as Russia and China, but also with African competitors such as Egypt.

* Traduit du turc par Ayvaz Colakoglu

[Dr Mürsel Bayram, Dr., Université des Sciences sociales d’Ankara, Institut des Etudes régionales, Département des Etudes sur l’Afrique]

* The opinions expressed in this analysis engage only their author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial line of Anadolu Agency.

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