Armed With Drones, Turkey Explores African Arms Sales – The Defense Post

December 15, 2021 by No Comments

Armed with battle-tested drones, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been deepening defense ties with African countries ahead of a major gathering of the continent’s leaders in Istanbul.

The two-day Turkey-Africa partnership summit starting Friday comes fast on the heels of a top-level business forum in October that focused on investment and trade.

The next phase of this fast-blossoming relationship is security, experts say, with a host of African leaders looking to buy up military hardware at cheaper prices and with fewer strings attached.

Leaders and top ministers from 39 countries — including 13 presidents — have confirmed attendance, with Erdogan set to make a speech on Saturday.

Ankara already has a military base in Somalia, and Morocco and Tunisia reportedly took their first delivery of Turkish combat drones in September.

Angola became the latest to express an interest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during Erdogan’s first visit to the southern African country in October.

Turkey in August also signed a military cooperation pledge with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been embroiled in a war with Tigrayan rebels for the past year.

“The most important sector is the defence sector because this is a new asset. Turkey has pushed this sector a lot, especially drones,” Federico Donelli, an international relations researcher at the University of Genoa, told AFP.

‘Everyone asks about UAVs’

Russia has been the dominant player on the African arms market, accounting for 49 percent of the continent’s imports between 2015 and 2019, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

But interest in Turkish weaponry is peaking.

The TB2 Bayraktar model is in high demand after it was credited with swinging the fate of conflicts in Libya and Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the past few years.

Bayraktar TB2 drone developed by Turkish defense firm Baykar. Photo: AFP

The drones are made by the private Baykar company, run by one of Erdogan’s sons-in-law.

“Everywhere I go in Africa, everyone asks about UAVs,” Erdogan boasted after a visit to Angola, Nigeria and Togo in October.

Some of the closest scrutiny has focused on Turkey’s ties with Ethiopia, where a brutal conflict has killed thousands, displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

A Western source said Turkey sent an undisclosed number of combat drones in support of Abiy’s campaign earlier this year, but that Ankara has since responded to international pressure and halted the sales.

“Ethiopia can buy these drones …….



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