Even with Erdogan facing an increasing number of political and economic difficulties at home, Turkey continues to expand its geo-political footprint beyond its borders. Whereas Turkey’s recent adventures in Libya were largely seen as the country’s first major military deployment and direct involvement in a conflict in the continent, Turkey’s presence in Africa exists far beyond the war-torn North African country, and is sustained by a political rhetoric that is uncompromising, is ideologically grounded in “neo-Ottomanism” and even relies on the use of hard power. Its recent display was the way Turkey, despite international pressure for ceasefire, threw its full might behind Azerbaijan against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Over the past few years, Erdogan has increasingly relied on Turkey’s armed forces to execute Turkey’s core foreign policy objectives. This includes the use of the military through direct and indirect means.
This was evident when Turkish trained security forces cracked down on protestors in the Somali capital of Mogadishu last month to control resistance against the regime. Turkey has been providing training to the Somalian Armed Forces at the Counter-Terrorism Training and Exercise Centre in Turkey’s Southwestern province of Isparta. This is part of plan to train about 15,000 Somalian soldiers. At the same time, Turkey’s largest overseas military base is also located in Somalia, where the rest of the Somalian soldiers are being trained.
But Somalia is hardly the only case where Turkey is involved. Since 2009, the number of Turkish embassies in Africa has increased from just 12 to 42. Keeping in mind the goal to take trade ties to US$50 billion, Turkey’s direct trade with African countries has increased from US$ 1 billion in 2002 to US$ 7.6 billion in 2019.
In November 2019, the largest Mosque in Djibouti was inaugurated, covering 13,000 square meters with the seating capacity of 6,000 people. The new landmark was financed by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, called Diyanet. Diyanet has become one of the major faces of Turkey’s growing export of neo-Ottomanist ideology across Africa. Over the past four decades, Diyanet has financed the construction of more than 100 mosques and educational institutions in 25 countries worldwide, including the African nations Djibouti, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad.
By opposing Africa’s colonial roots and by criticising the influence that former colonial states like France continue to exert in Africa,