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Armed With Drones, Turkey Explores African Arms Sales

Armed with battle-tested drones, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been deepening defence ties with African countries ahead of a major gathering of the continent’s leaders in Istanbul.

The two-day Turkey-Africa partnership summit starting Friday comes fast on the heels of a top-level business forum in October that focused on investment and trade.

The next phase of this fast-blossoming relationship is security, experts say, with a host of African leaders looking to buy up military hardware at cheaper prices and with fewer strings attached.

Leaders and top ministers from 39 countries — including 13 presidents — have confirmed attendance, with Erdogan set to make a speech on Saturday.

Ankara already has a military base in Somalia, and Morocco and Tunisia reportedly took their first delivery of Turkish combat drones in September.

Angola became the latest to express an interest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during Erdogan’s first visit to the southern African country in October.

Turkey in August also signed a military cooperation pledge with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been embroiled in a war with Tigrayan rebels for the past year.

“The most important sector is the defence sector because this is a new asset. Turkey has pushed this sector a lot, especially drones,” Federico Donelli, an international relations researcher at the University of Genoa, told AFP.

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