Turkey is planning further cooperation in the defense industry with Nigeria, its sixth largest trading partner in Africa. With a new defense industry cooperation agreement, Turkish companies will gain a legal basis for arms and ammunition sales.
The agreement, which was approved by the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee on July 1, was signed on October 22, 2021 during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Abuja. The agreement lays out the principles of mutual cooperation in the defense industry between the two counties or government agencies or private organizations approved by the parties.
These routine agreements that Turkey has signed with several African countries help Turkish defense contractors focus on target markets. Weapons sales and trade deals are the highlights of Erdoğan’s visits to African countries as the Turkish lira depreciates at home. Apart from marketing military drones produced by his son-in-law, Erdoğan lobbies for the sale of armored vehicles manufactured by financially struggling Turkish-Qatari venture BMC, whose Turkish owners are businessmen close to Erdoğan.Nigeria defence cooperation
Turkey does not put forward any political or human rights conditions in the sale of weapons and ammunition. This is convenient for African countries that have to complete lengthy, complicated procedures and secure permission from their respective parliaments to buy weapons from Western partners.
According to recent reports in the Turkish media, Nigeria has been willing to buy military drones from Baykar, of which Erdoğan’s son-in-law is a partner. Baykar allegedly sold a Bayraktar Akıncı, an unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UACV), to Nigeria, but this was not officially announced. Military experts have not confirmed this, either. Baykar has not disclosed its drone sales to the public for a while on the pretext of trade secrets. If there is a large increase in Turkey’s defense industry exports to a country, it is believed by experts to have been due to the sale of drones.
There is currently a $2 billion volume of trade between Turkey and Nigeria. Murat Ceran, who attended the committee meeting representing the Presidency of the Defense Industry (Savunma Sanayii Başkanlığı, SSB), stated that Turkey sold two offshore patrol vessels (OPV) in 2021 to Nigeria, which is also interested in ATAK combat helicopters.
In November 2021 the Nigerian Ministry of Defense held a tender for the purchase of attack helicopters, at which Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) submitted a bid for its T-129 ATAK helicopter. The ATAK, however, frequently experiences licensing rights problems with the US for the engine of the helicopter.
Finally, Nigeria has requested to buy 12 American AH-1Z attack helicopters. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), under the US Department of Defense, delivered the certification notifying Congress of the $1 billion deal in April.
As a side note, the US sanctioned the SSB and its senior officials over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 long-range missiles, a deal worth $2.5 billion, from Rosoboronexport (ROE), Russia’s main arms export entity. The US stated that Turkey willfully engaged in a significant transaction with Russia and therefore was subject to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Turkey had defense industry cooperation agreements signed by the head of the SSB for a while to show that it did not recognize the sanctions. The one with Nigeria is one of them.
According to Turkey’s 2021 export figures announced by the Turkish Exporters Assembly last December, Turkey’s arms sales reached a record level, with the biggest increase to African countries. The figures could be interpreted as the successful outcome of a strategy pursued by the government of President Erdoğan to make Africa a new arms market for Turkey as well as its aggressive marketing efforts for companies that belong to businesspeople close to him.
In 2021 Turkey exported $3.224 billion in defense products, an increase of 41.5 percent compared to 2020. For the first time, the defense sector had a 1.9 percent share of Turkey’s total exports.
Compared to 2020, Turkey increased its defense exports to the African continent by 560 percent in 2021, from $82 million to $461 million. Africa, thus, ranks third in Turkey’s defense exports, following North America ($1.15 billion) and the Commonwealth of Independent States ($455 million).