Turkey-Somalia relations: Opportunities and patterns for collaboration

Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Somalia on March 16 this year, Turkey has sent four planes full of medical equipment, including intensive care unit (ICU) beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), surgical face masks, face shields and other useful materials, to the country.

This medical equipment will help the Somali people in fighting the pandemic and will enhance the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic. It enables the government to strengthen and build up the fragile health infrastructure of the country, which is already grappling with and burdened by the surge in the number of COVID-19 patients.

This generous move by Turkey once again reinforced the brotherly relationship between the two countries and demonstrated the Turkish government’s assiduous efforts in helping the government and people of Somalia in difficult times.

The Somali government and its people have been very grateful for Turkey’s generosity and swift response, not only in this pandemic, but also in every emergency situation that the Somali people have encountered in recent years. The quick deployment of much-needed medical equipment at this critical time in Somalia has demonstrated and is a clear testimony to the unique Turkish humanitarian diplomacy model toward Somalia.

The quick and pragmatic humanitarian intervention of Turkey in Somalia is driven by the moral imperative of assisting its brotherly nation. It is a principle that is enshrined in humanity and empathy and emphasized by cultural proximity, historical relations and a friendship of two nations that dates back to the 15th century.

In a testament to this, on July 15, 2016, when the failed coup attempt against Turkey’s democratic institutions was underway, Somalia and its citizens were among the first to show solidarity with the Turkish government, its people and the victims of the failed attempt in which 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.

While bilateral ties between our nations date back centuries, the contemporary diplomatic relations started in 1979 when the first Somali and Turkish embassies were respectively established in both countries. Today, Turkey has its largest diplomatic mission in Somalia. Over the last decade, more than any other country,

Turkey has taken on an influential role for Somali citizens as it has worked to combat famine, improved health care, invested in agricultural development, renovated dilapidated roads in Mogadishu, provided generous scholarships to students, built schools and implemented many public services development projects across the country, along with other crucial projects aimed to revive government institutions.

More broadly, Turkey has taken a comprehensive approach to telling the world about Somalia’s predicament. A harbinger of this was when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister, said in a 2011 speech at the U.N. General Assembly, “No one can speak of peace, justice and civilization in the world if the outcry rising from Somalia is left unheard.” Within this framework,

Turkey and Somalia developed deep-rooted and rare sociopolitical relations, which compelled Turkey’s contribution to political dialogue and security reform. The multidimensional assistance of Turkey has facilitated the end of the international isolation of Somalia and enhanced its political stability, which helps exterminate its entrenched problems.

Therefore, Turkey’s model in Somalia is different from the conventional mechanism of simply delivering assistance, defying the international “pseudo-politics of kindness.” Since then, Erdoğan has spoken about the Somali situation in many platforms, including at the U.N. and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

On security matters, Turkey opened a military training base in Somalia, its largest overseas military training facility, on Sept. 30, 2017. The base plays a pivotal role in imparting much-needed experience to the Somali National Army (SNA) and goes a long way in building a capable, well trained and disciplined military that can effectively combat terrorist groups and defend the territorial integrity of Somalia.

Turkey has spent more than $1 billion both in cash and other donations on Somalia. This generous contribution has made most Somalis consider Turkey one of their closest allies, even among other renowned up-scale commitments from other countries. Its contribution is seen as colossal and brotherly by the majority of the public.

These positive offerings by Turkey and the two nations’ mutual respect for one another has enhanced the bilateral trade to more than $200 million between them. Moreover, the East African nation, with its geostrategic location and the discovery of substantial oil reserves in its mainland, sea and shores, in addition to its large tracts of fertile agricultural land and pristine coastline, has the potential for a progressive future, which Somalia and Turkey can share to sustain their strong diplomatic relations.

With the anticipated post-COVID-19 economic bloom, the alliances, economic partnerships and the trajectory of the world might completely change. Today, with the close relationships between Somalia and Turkey, they might enhance their platforms of knowledge exchange and experiences, and maximize their level of collaborative work in terms of trade and other bilateral relations.

Somalia is implementing key macroeconomic reforms to create an enabling and simpler business environment, which can engender Turkey’s diversified economy to invest in. As per the 9th National Development Plan (NDP-9), our priorities between 2020 and 2024 are to encourage foreign investment in manufacturing, transport, infrastructure, fisheries and energy hydrocarbons, among others, in which Turkey has a favorable experience.

Finally, I have the wish that Somalia and Turkey will have institutionalized and solid bilateral economic relations that provide ample opportunities for both of our citizens. I firmly believe that if the necessary infrastructures and investments are established in Somalia, they will have a positive impact on both nations.

On behalf of the people and government of Somalia, I would like to express our appreciation for all of Turkey’s efforts in Somalia. We shall treasure all these memories dearly and hold them close to our hearts.

*Somali ambassador to the Republic of Turkey