Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

Turkey in the Horn of Africa

27 May 2019 - 14:00
Source: UN Photo/Stuart Price
Between the Ankara Consensus and the Gulf Crisis

This brief explores Turkey’s increasingly active and assertive foreign policy and growing footprint in the Horn of Africa (especially in Somalia and Sudan). Turkey’s role is considered as a factor of both its own domestic drivers and strategic interests in the Horn region. As its economy has grown, Turkish foreign policy has become considerably more assertive and predicated on the ideology of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), shifting to a focus on the Middle East, particularly on Muslim Brotherhood-oriented Sunni sectarianism.

Meanwhile, economic and security developments in the Horn have raised the region’s relevance as a geostrategic location, leading to a proliferation of foreign military bases, frequently accompanied by soft-power approaches such as investments by foreign companies. Turkey’s
developmental and economic role in this context has generally been positively received. It is noted for its speed, efficiency and lighter political baggage, yet it is criticised for its bilateral isolationism and lack of oversight. Turkey’s shift to more ambitious geopolitical and heavy security roles has been met with caution as competition between Turkey and Qatar against the Gulf has heightened intra-Horn disputes and could be contributing to increased instability.