Levent Kenez / Stockholm
Turkey continues to develop military ties with Gambia, the smallest country in West Africa. Two hundred and fifty Gambian soldiers arrived in the western city of Isparta on a Turkish A400M military transport aircraft on Thursday for counter-terrorism training.
The Gambian soldiers of the Counterterrorism Training and Exercise Center Command will also receive motorized infantry training this week.
The military relations established between the two countries in 1991 entered a new phase with a joint defense cooperation agreement signed in 2014 in which Turkey accelerated its personnel training and provided the Gambian army with material support.
In 2018 and 2019, Turkey provided Gambia with material support in the form of military uniforms, steel vests and military tents. Also in 2019 it was announced that Turkey had provided Gambia with US $ 1.4 million in military aid, the content of which has not been disclosed.
In March 2021, the Gambian Defense Minister Seikh Omar Faye was received by the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the military cooperation and training agreement signed in 2014 was updated. In December 2021, a Turkish transport plane with a group of Turkish military trainers also brought military goods to Gambia. Details of the visit were also not disclosed.
In 2021, Turkish media announced that the Gambian Army was interested in the Turkey-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aircraft (UCAV). Turkey’s military drones, which have made a name for themselves in several combat areas such as Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh in recent years, are produced by Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. A big reason for choosing Turkish drones is that, unlike the US and the European Union, Turkey doesn’t have a long export approval process.
It is no secret that Turkey is looking for new markets in Africa for the defense industry, in which it has invested heavily in recent years. So far, Turkey has signed bilateral agreements with Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire to cooperate on industrial production, procurement and maintenance of military and defense equipment, as well as technical and logistical support, information exchange and research in this field, which opens up new markets for Erdoğan’s defense groups.
According to Turkey’s export figures for 2021 announced by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly last week, Turkey’s arms sales hit record levels, with the largest increase being to African countries.
Turkey exported defense products worth $ 2.793 billion in the first eleven months of 2021, up 39.7 percent from the same period last year. Turkey’s defense industry, which set an export record of $ 2.7 billion in 2019, is preparing for a new record by closing last year with exports of more than $ 3 billion. In November 2021, the armaments sector accounted for 1.8 percent of Turkey’s total exports for the first time.
A record increase is expected in arms sales to African countries. Compared to the previous year, Turkey increased its arms exports to the continent by 700 percent in the first eleven months of 2021, from $ 41 million to $ 328 million. Africa ranks fifth in arms exports from Turkey, after North America ($ 1.56 billion), the Commonwealth of Independent States ($ 411 million), the Middle East ($ 381.1 million) and the countries of the European Union ($ 338 million) Million dollars). Experts believe that Africa could become Turkey’s third largest arms sales market in the near future.
Turkey has been in close contact with West African countries for some time. Erdoğan made a four-day official visit to West Africa in Angola, Nigeria and Togo last year. Arms sales and trade were the highlights of his trip as the Turkish lira rapidly depreciated at home.
At a press conference after meeting Angolan President Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, Erdoğan said Angola had previously requested unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey and also discussed armored carriers.