Turkey continues to develop military relations with The Gambia, the smallest country in West Africa. Two hundred fifty Gambian soldiers arrived in the western city of Isparta on Thursday on a Turkish A400M military transport aircraft to receive counterterrorism training.
The Gambian soldiers hosted by the Counterterrorism Training and Exercise Center Command will also receive motorized infantry training this week.
Military relations between the two countries, which were initiated in 1991, reached a new phase with a joint defense cooperation agreement signed in 2014 under which Turkey accelerated its personnel training along with material support to the Gambian army.gambia
In 2018 and 2019 Turkey provided material support to The Gambia consisting of military uniforms, steel vests and military tents. Again in 2019 it was announced that Turkey had provided $1.4 million in military assistance to The Gambia, the content of which was not disclosed.
In March 2021 Gambian Defense Minister Seikh Omar Faye was hosted by Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, and the Military Cooperation and Training Agreement signed in 2014 was updated. In December 2021 a Turkish transport plane carrying a group of Turkish military trainers also brought military supplies to The Gambia. Details of the visit were also not disclosed.
In 2021 Turkish media announced that the Gambian army was interested in the Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) produced by Turkey. Turkey’s military drones, which have made a name for themselves in recent years in several battle zones such as Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, are produced by Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. An important reason for choosing Turkish drones is that Turkey does not have a long export approval process, unlike the US and the European Union.
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 in industrial production, procurement and maintenance of military and defense materiel as well as technical and logistical support, information sharing and research in the field, opening up new markets to Erdoğan’s defense conglomerates.
According to Turkey’s 2021 export figures announced by the Turkish Exporters Assembly last week, Turkey’s arms sales reached a record level, with the biggest increase to African countries.
In the first 11 months of 2021 Turkey exported $2.793 billion worth of defense products, an increase of 39.7 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. The Turkish defense industry, which set an export record of $2.7 billion in 2019, is preparing to set a new record by closing last year with exports of more than $3 billion. For the first time, the defense sector had a 1.8 percent share of Turkey’s total exports in November 2021.
A record rise is expected in arms sales to African countries. Compared to last year, Turkey increased its defense exports to the continent by 700 percent, in the first 11 months of 2021, from $41 million to $328 million. Africa, thus, ranks fifth in Turkey’s defense exports, following North America ($1.56 billion), the Commonwealth of Independent States ($411 million), the Middle East ($381.1 million) and European Union countries ($338 million). Experts predict that Africa may become the third-largest market for Turkey’s arms sales in the near future.
Turkey has been in close contact with West African countries for a while. Erdoğan was in West Africa for a four-day official visit to Angola, Nigeria and Togo last year. Weapons sales and trade deals were the highlights of his trip as the Turkish lira was rapidly depreciating at home.
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with Angolan President Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, Erdoğan said Angola had previously requested unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey and that they also had discussed armored carriers.