Our New BFF: Turkey and Somalia’s Strengthening Relationship Blog

For a few years now, I’ve been trying to figure out what to make of Turkey’s interest in Somalia. Since 2011, Turkey has been playing a leading role in Somalia’s rebuilding process; along with providing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian relief, they have invested heavily in major infrastructure projects such as the renovation of the Aden Adde airport. The undertaking of such grand initiatives makes it impossible not to notice Turkey’s impact in the country and these efforts have been extremely well received. Turkey, and it’s President Tayyip Erdogan, seem to be immune from our usual skepticism towards outsiders and their activities inside Somalia. Why is this so?

There are a few reasons why Turkey seems to be resistant to criticism. For obvious historical reasons, our colonialism-imperialism radar is better at detecting Western suspects; any attempts at intervening in domestic affairs by the old players will always be met with heavy scrutiny. Due to historical grievances and currently tense relations, there is also skepticism towards the activities and motives of neighbouring African countries in Somalia. Turkey, being neither a Western country nor a fellow African country, is met with considerably less suspicion. The Turkish presence is also more welcome due to the shared religion between the two countries. Furthermore, Turkey’s approach to development and rebuilding has been very different from traditional development organisations and institutions. For example, whereas most development organisations working in Somalia are based in neighbouring countries like Kenya, Turkey has been operating from the capital city of Mogadishu. Erdogan’s visits to Mogadishu alone were notable; he visited the so called “most dangerous city in the world” with his wife without heavy security. The optics of his visits, I must admit, were pretty powerful.

But why is Turkey, and Erdogan specifically, so interested in supporting Somalia? It’s not necessary to delve into IR theories to figure out that Turkey’s aid and investment is probably not for purely altruistic reasons. Turkey, just like every other state, is self-interested and sees the current potential in investing in Somalia as well as in expanding its sphere of influence. That being said, it doesn’t (yet) seem to be an exploitative relationship; whatever profit and influence Turkey is gaining from this relationship is helping facilitate the revitalization of the country at the same time.

As hard as I’ve been trying, I have yet to find strong enough reasons to be distrustful of the increasingly active role Turkey has been playing in Somalia. So what is it that’s bothering me? Perhaps it’s a matter of pride; without diminishing the positive impact Turkey has had in Somalia, it makes me feel somewhat defeated to see us so dependent on an outsider/outsiders. Maybe these recent developments will help bring us to a place of self-reliance? Or perhaps it’s Erdogan himself. The Turkish leader has been receiving praise and admiration from all corners of Somali society despite his problematic positions within his own country.

My tendency to view this increasing role in Somalia as imperialism with a friendly, culturally similar cover might be wrong, so, as long as the relationship between the two countries remains an equal and mutually beneficial one, I will hold off any potential condemnations.



  1. Mohamoud Says: July 6, 2015 at 2:17 am

    beggars can’t be choosers

  2. I feel that one reason that Turkey is participating in development in Somalia, in addition to their state self-interests, is to provide another learning space for their upcoming professionals. There are SO many opportunities for growth in Somalia, but the issue the Somali government and society face is how to provide secure and stable employment for Somali citizens, rather than opening up positions for people from the outside.

  3. Absiraj Says: July 15, 2015 at 1:56 am

    Turkey and Erdagon felt the plight of their brothers. They came with strategies which will have both immediate/short term and long term impact. Aid to relieve the biting hunger and reconstruction of infrastructure for longer term profit interest for both countries. secondly, expand their span of influence, create market for their future generation. thousands of Somali students are learning in Turkey, once they graduate all will be coming back to work in Somalia and the Turkish brothers will have “Turkish” speaking country where they are cherished and believe me you they will come in their numbers to work in Somalia. Thanks for the Scholarships, but I believe in less than ten years, Turkish influence will be allover. forget the “English” speaking Somali diaspora youth coming home, Turkish speaking home grown will be run a number of offices both in the private and public sector come 2020. Remember whether we are brought up at home and we schooled at home, or in the west or East or Turkish, Our Diversity is always our STRENGTH

  4. Somalian in distress Says: July 18, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Thank you massa Turkiye. You iz so kind and thoughtful. Truly generous. Teach us ignant ‘malis how to run our country because we clearly can’t. Yes, you can have our airports and resources for the next 30 years. Let’s sign it all away, Muslim big bro knows best.

  5. i also find it especially hard to be skeptical of the role of turkey in Somalia. But let’s keep an open eye and be wary of not only Turkey but also Italian businesses damaging our seas and exploiting our fish

  6. I’m completely skeptical of Turkey’s interest in Somalia and I suspect it has something to do with maintaining a hold in East Africa which comes rich with resources. I heard some time ago that Turkey attempted to set up factories in Somalia but Somalis refused. Perhaps they see an opportunity for cheap(er) labour in a place that also comes laden with resources.

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