Ankara is strengthening ties with Sahelian capitals, building mosques and hospitals and opening up export markets. Its defence pact with Niamey has led rivals to suspect its intentions. Turkey and other outside powers should do what they can to avoid unnecessary additional competition in the region.
In reality, Turkey’s forays into the Sahel have so far been mainly an exercise in soft-power projection. Ankara’s activities in the region are mostly focused on development support and commercial engagement. True, it has signed a defence accord with Niamey. It is also the case that in Somalia, Turkish aid and business subsequently led to more military engagement, though for the most part Turkish involvement there has been constructive and not in conflict with Western aims. Sahelian states and external powers would be better served by taking the best of what Turkey has to offer rather than seeing it as an inherent threat – especially as Macron and Erdoğan, who held a private discussion on the sidelines of the NATO summit in June, appear to be mending ties. Recent efforts to quell tensions between Turkey and Egypt and between sparring Gulf states suggest a broader rapprochement may be on the cards. Instead of competing in the Sahel, external powers should find ways of cooperating for the troubled region’s benefit.
Author(s): Armstrong, Hannah
Full Title: Turkey in the Sahel
Publisher or Journal: ICG
Year of Publication: 2021
Document Type: Article