For many years, Ankara has been an important player in the Libyan civil war, backing one of the primary belligerents. But Turkish influence extends far further across the African continent, in keeping with a strategy developed in the 1990s and adopted by Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he came power in 2003. Erdogan has visited 33 African countries in the past twenty years; Turkey is a partner of the African Union and has extensive trade relations with numerous African states, which include arm sales. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak explains:
[State institutions like the Directorate of Religious Affairs, known as] the Diyanet, help Turkey increase its influence through religion by constructing mosques. In doing so, Turkey challenges Saudi Arabia and Iran, especially in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad. A concrete example of this policy could be seen in Djibouti. The Diyanet finalized the construction of the Ottoman-style Abdülhamit II mosque in 2019, but this impressive mosque cannot overshadow the Turkish-built Nizamiye mosque in Somalia. The mosque was crowned as the biggest in East Africa. In addition to constructing its own style of mosques, Turkey also launched restoration projects for repairing Somali mosques.
To secure its ventures in this unstable country, Ankara inaugurated its most extensive military base abroad in Somalia in 2017. In the first stage, Turkey deployed 200 Turkish soldiers on the base to train 10,000 Somali soldiers against al-Shabab, [the Horn of Africa’s al-Qaeda affiliate]. In addition, Ankara also dispatched tanks and UAVs to collect intelligence and safeguard the base from al-Shabab attacks.
Somalia invited Turkey to research and discover hydrocarbon reserves in a 47,000-square mile area.