A Turkish-built Hizir armoured personnel carrier.
At the signing ceremony, both men pointed out that this is yet another step in strengthening bilateral ties between their countries. Biruta noted that the bilateral trade volume between the two countries has increased from $33 million to $180 million, to which Cavusoglu added: “Our trade and economic relations are developing rapidly. The volume of trade has increased by more than five times in the last three years. This means that there is a huge potential. The two countries should work together to further increase the volume of trade”.
The Turkish minister added that his country is especially interested in tourism, energy and construction projects, sectors in which the Turkish economy is already in the lead in Rwanda. This is especially true of the construction sector, in which huge Istanbul conglomerates have a strong presence, such as the Summa and Doğuş groups – the latter wanting to make Kigali its main hub for expansion in Africa. Besides, it is Ankara’s desire to strengthen its defence partnership with Kigali that most suggests that Rwanda is in the sights of Turkish influence diplomacy.
Spanish magazine Atalayar details Turkey’s expansion strategy in Africa: “At a time of Islamic insurgencies in East and West Africa, as well as internal conflicts, governments are increasing their defence spending, and Turkey is taking advantage of this”.
Citing a report by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, it explains that the Ottoman country wants to become a reliable alternative to traditional arms exporters such as Russia, China, France or even the United States, as evidenced by the “impressive” growth in its sales in Africa. The paper adds that the value of Turkey’s arms exports has increased fivefold, from $83 million in 2020 to $460.6 million in 2021.
While the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) are still engaged in military operations against rebel factions, notably in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, French confidential newsletter Africa Intelligence explains that Ankara sees Rwanda as a major outlet for its defence industry. Already in 2021, the main Turkish arms companies Aselsan, Havelsan, Otokar and STM had travelled to Kigali, accompanied by a delegation of politicians and military, to present their catalogue to the Rwandan military high command. Following this meeting, the local press reported that the flagship Turkish defence company Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) had won an important contract for the delivery of a dozen Bayraktar TB2 drones.
Finally, Rwanda fits perfectly into the arc of Turkish influence that seems to be taking shape in Central and East Africa. While Togo, Niger, Nigeria and Ethiopia have already received Turkish-made UAVs, Somalia is also benefiting from large Turkish military endowments (delivery of BMC armoured vehicles in August 2021, a major training and supervision mission), as well as Kenya and Uganda, which have opted for the purchase of Katmerciler light vehicles, still according to Africa Intelligence.
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