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The Future outlook of Turkish-Somali Relations


Agriculture and Maritime Collaborations


Prof. Hussein Iman mentioned that Agriculture is an important economic activity in Somalia, not only in terms of meeting the food needs of the population but also in terms of generating income through crop sales and agricultural labour opportunities.  With roughly 50% of the population’s cereal requirements met through domestic production, Agriculture is a major component, particularly for two of the main rural livelihood systems in the Horn of Africa country: Agro-pastoralist, a mix of agriculture and livestock production-based livelihood and Agriculturalist, agriculture-based livelihood.


In the short- to medium-term, the recovery of agricultural production depends on better security, stronger public and community institutions, and the rehabilitation of dilapidated flood control, irrigation, and transport infrastructure. In the longer term, the sector’s growth potential can be achieved by developing and implementing a comprehensive sector development strategy, supported by effective institutions and interventions that harness the dynamism of its private sector.


He talked about livestock as a primary sector for the livelihood of the majority of the population. This is a major employment activity and is the largest economic sector in the country. It contributes more than 65% to the national GDP from domestic distribution and exports to other parts of the continent, the Middle East and Europe. Also, livestock provides 80% of the foreign currency to the country by selling the animals or the by-products.


As Mr. Hussein mentioned, Somalia has an estimated 40 million head of animals, and this huge number makes Somalia one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of animals. Somalia`s export of animals is affected by several factors like political instability, conflict civil displacement, natural and climatic shocks, and the outbreaks of transboundary animal diseases which is difficult to control.


Because of the civil unrest in the last 25 years, the sector is suffering from impediments like lack of livestock infrastructure, institutions at federal or regional levels, and alternative feeding for the animals. Thus, Somali animals have to cut long distances to get grace which negatively affects the health and productivity of the sector. Also, genetic improvements will be important to increase the productivity of the Somalia animal. There is a need for improvements and developmental projects for animal products as well as businesses and private investments in the sector.


Fishery is also another sector which is so important, but in terms of utilization, it’s the least utilized sector by the Somalis. However, nowadays, the sector has started to gain momentum in becoming part of the food security. The sector is expected to contribute some $65 million to the country’s economy in 2019. Surveys of Somali waters show that there are significant fish stocks off the coast of Somalia—these waters are, in fact, considered to be some of the richest fishing grounds in the region, and many profitable species live in the waters off the coast of Somalia.


Like other sectors, the fishing sector is facing a challenge, and the biggest one is the absence of institutions which are supposed to improve and motivate the sector. Extensive illegal fishing inflicts damage in several ways. Most obviously, "foreign trawlers" directly compete for fish with local communities, including those where fishing is the traditional and only livelihood. Depleted stocks may deny locals not only scarce income but food.

Turkish-Somali Diaspora Partnership


Dr. Yusuf Sheikh Hassan, a researcher affiliated with SOAS University in London, highlighted the necessity to establish relations and cooperation between Turkish and Somali diaspora. Turkey and East African societies, including Somalia, have a positive and longstanding historical relationship that goes back to the sixth century. However, the relation between East Africa and the Ottoman State has been greatly weakened after the secular Republic of Turkey was established in 1923.


The constructive historical relationship between the Somali and Turkish people has been reinvented by the historical visit of Erdogan, (then the Prime Minister of Turkey) to Somalia in 2011. Thus, Erdogan’s visit has positively impacted on Somali diaspora’s perception of Turkey as the well-known Somali writer Arman said: “The fact is, Erdogan has done for Somalia what no other world leader has done in decades.”


During his visit, Somali diaspora and non-diaspora set up Facebook pages to thank him; countless letters were sent to his office as Somali diaspora flocked to Turkish embassies in the world to say thank you, Turkey. This is because Erdogan restored the hope that Somalia will recover. As an appreciation, many new-born girls were named “Istanbul,” and boys were named “Erdogan.”


The reasons behind Somali diaspora’s increasing travel to Turkey included but was not limited to taking holidays, seeking educational and businesses opportunities, learning Islamic history and Turkish culture influenced by Islam. Almost all participants confirmed that they met their expectations during their stay in Turkey.


Because of the unconditional help and support offered by the Turkish people, Somali society has redefined and is still redefining their Islamic identity in association with Turkey, the country that Somalis consider as real Muslim brothers and sisters who helped them at the time, they needed it the most. Moreover, diaspora participants felt emotional and psychological wellbeing when they visited Turkey and heard the call for prayers and performed their prayers in Mosques. 


Somali diaspora visiting or staying in Turkey have been attracted and influenced by Turkey’s cultural and historical aspects shaped Islamic visibility e.g. Mosques, hearing Azan, Islamic history, Turkish food, beautiful landscape, hospitality and friendliness of the Turkish people, as well as cleanliness of streets.


Somali diaspora has also faced some challenges such as the language barrier; traffic system, speedy driving attitudes, and widespread smoking of cigarettes; immigration system. Most participants agreed that the level of social engagement outside of government officials is rather weak assuming that the relationship isn’t as strong as the one that exists in Turkey or the strong political relationship.


Therefore, participants offered diverse suggestions in order to improve Turkey-Somali diaspora relationships.  To improve Somali-Turkish Diaspora Relationships, participants recommended the following:


§  Develop and organize Somali-Turkey diaspora joint-activities in which both communities can identify, such as Islamic Eid celebrations and local celebrations in their respective host country.


§  Each community (Somali and Turkish communities) should invite the other when organising their own national celebrations for their countries of origin.


§  Organize joint conferences and events through which the two communities can develop shared understanding, learn from each other’s experience, culture and historical background.


§  Establish joint-community spaces and friendship centers where two community members can interact, socialize and share experiences and stories.



§  The Turkish government should prioritize institution-building and Somali diaspora knowledge, skills and expertise transfer, including investing in the return of educated and professional diaspora Somalis, which will contribute to the process of recovery and nation-building.


§  It has been suggested that Turkey-Somali diplomats can play a very important role in improving and strengthening community relationships by developing purposeful programs in which key members from the two communities are involved and officially invited.



§  It has been suggested that the more Somali diaspora visit Turkey, the better the relationship can grow naturally. This is because visiting Somali diasporas can make connections, both in Turkey and in the Turkish communities in the diaspora. 


Mr. Burhan Basoglu of YTB talked about the Turkish diasporic community living abroad mainly in Europe and North America and how they are actively participating in the social, economic, cultural and political life of their host countries while maintaining their ties to their motherland, mother tongue and culture; they’re living as prosperous, successful individuals respecting local laws and customs.



He praised the Somali diasporic community for their active and outstanding role in the hosting countries. Both communities immigrated for the same reason, which is to get a better life, currently because of the rise of Islamophobia and racism in the West. There is an opportunity for the two communities to engage with each other and cooperate to overcome the challenges and obstacles by networking and sharing experiences.


The Role of the Media in Turkish Somali Partnership


Mr. Metin Mutanoglu, Deputy Director and Editor in Chief of the Anadolu Agency highlighted the role of the media in fostering relations between states. The media can play a significant role in terms of facilitating a clear understanding between people by drawing a comprehensible view on shared characteristics and aspirations. In the Turkish-Somali partnership agenda, the media can shape how Somalis see Turkey as well as how Turkey sees Somalia.


Turkish media coverage on Somalia is dominated by news of piracy, terrorist attacks, explosions and casualties. This does not give the whole picture of what is going on in Somalia. Recently, Somalia has been recovering with the help of the Turkish government. Turkey has established a military academy, one of the biggest military bases Turkey has outside its borders. The benefits of this academy will be seen in the near future as they prepare the creation of a strong Somali national army which will help Somalis eliminate its security threat on its own.


From this perspective, there is a shining future ahead for Somalia. Although Somalia has tens of television channels, radios and websites, the picture they draw is distorted by the coverage of other media and their reach to the world. A description of Somalia for the world is limited by the resources, the know-how and the strategies they use to conduct their activities.


The Anadolu Agency communicates with the world in 13 languages. We plan to visit Somalia and blow a fresh wind by drawing a clear new image about its recovery, hopes and aspirations through documentaries and reports.


The Turkish Role in the Stabilization of Somalia


Dr. Mohamed Deq Ibrahim of Somali National University highlighted that Somalia and Turkey were never distant to each other and that they share a long history that traces back to the 15th century and culminated in the 19th century when Somalia became a party of the Ottoman empire`s area of dominance. Since then, the relations between the two countries witnessed interruptions due to the rise of modern European colonizers in the region and the total collapse of the caliphate in 1924.


The second interruption began with the foundation of the modern republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk from the ashes of the empire at the time the new republic directed its face to the west and turned its back on the Muslim country. The establishment of the Islamic conference currently known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation represented the meeting point between Turkey and other Muslim countries, among them Somalia. Henceforth, during the periodic gatherings of the organization, there were meetings between the leaders of the two countries on the side-lines. As a result, Somalia opened its first diplomatic mission in Ankara in 1976, and after three years in 1979, Turkey also opened its impasse in Mogadishu.


In the wake of the cold war and disintegration of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s, Turkish foreign policy was restructured and directed towards a close relationship with the newly independent states in Caucasus and Central Asia. The governmental and civil society organizations started to have a huge presence in these countries and conducted developmental and humanitarian programs besides defusing conflicts and tensions. This interruption did not last long where again Turkey became an outstanding contributor to the UN intervention in Somalia in 1992 under the operation called Operation Restore Hope. The Turkish contribution to the operations was not only limited to troops but more than that; a Turkish general was the commander of the mission.


In the second half of the 1990s, the Turkish Africa relations got momentum, and Turkey launched its new strategy towards Africa and adopted its Opening to Africa policy in 1998. Subsequently, the leaders of the two countries met several times from 2007 where the

Prime Minister of Turkey met with the Somali interim president on the side-lines of the African Union Submit, followed by several visits made by the Somali president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to Turkey and the organization of the Somali road map that was held in Istanbul in 2010. The process culminated with the visit of President Erdogan to Somalia in 2011 when he was then the Turkish Prime Minister.


The visit of President Erdogan to Somalia in 2011 with a huge delegation from the government officials and his family represented a defining moment for the relations between the two countries. During his visit, he witnessed the magnitude of the devastation caused by the severe drought in Mogadishu outskirts refugee camps and the hospitals. It was a rare instance of a foreign head of state visiting the war-ravaged country. Also, it was the first time that a non-African head of state had visited Somalia since the collapse of the Somali government. It had an effect on the way Somalia is seen by the international community and created a greater hope towards state building and restoring peace and security.


In 2011, Somalia witnessed one of the deadliest famines in its history which affected some 3.1 million people. One of the indirect results of President Erdogan`s visit is the pull out of the Al-Shabab movement from Mogadishu in the same year that made the capital under the full control of the Somali federal government. In Somalia, Turkey started rebuilding the social fabric by reconstructing roads, airports, hospitals for Somali peoples` wellbeing and paving the way for political resettlement. The visit of Mr. Erdogan marked the third phase of Turkey`s involvement in Africa.


The visit of Erdogan and the Turkish involvement uncovered the flaws and pitfalls of international community engagement with Somalia, proved its inconsistencies since the breakout of the Somali civil war. Also, it uncovered the inefficiency of the international organizations which are based in Nairobi and collect money for Somalia.


Erdogan’s visit and opening the biggest Turkish embassy complex in Mogadishu created a new perception on dealing with Somalia and was followed by an influx of high foreign delegations and ambassadors to Mogadishu, where up to thirty foreign embassies opened in Mogadishu a few months after the Erdogan visit. On the other hand, the Turkish involvement in Somalia motivated one way or another the Somali diaspora to return and establish their business and political career.

Through observing the Turkish involvement in Somalia so far, we can deduce that it depends on the following:

§  Formalizing the status of Somalia in terms of its bilateral and multilateral relations with governments and organizations.

§  Providing humanitarian assistance.

§  Rebuilding infrastructure and supporting developmental projects.

§  Assisting security enforcement and restoration.

§  Pushing forward the political process.


The features of Turkish-Somali involvement model are:

§  Direct support without going through mediators.

§  Direct engagement with the Somali people without security exaggeration in providing humanitarian and developmental services.

§  A high level of coordination with the Somalis when prioritizing.

§  Long-term developmental projects.

§  Higher speed of achievement.

§  Assistance is directed to the neediest people and locations.

§  Bilateral support rather than multilateral support.



Lastly, although the Turkish involvement in Somalia has been having challenges due to lack of experience and competition from the other stakeholders from the region and outside the region, it realized a tangible impact on the ground within a short time where other involvements mainly from western countries had failed to achieve.


Future Partnership in Research and Development


Dr. Muharrem Hilmi Ozev, from the Center for Middle East & Africa Studies highlighted the importance of research in developing nations. Somalia’s spending on research is significantly low. This is the result of scarce and limited resources that governments face. However, research and development are the keys to breaking the vicious cycle that these states are trapped in and hence, investment in research and development issues becomes a necessity.


In the age of high technology, where companies with artificial intelligence products are becoming trillion-dollar investments, data and information transfer and management becomes a booming economic sector. In general, Muslim countries’ spending on research is not inadequate but is humiliatingly low. Turkey and Somalia should give importance and priority to research and development programs.


Research and development strategies should be comprehensive, covering both natural science such as medical and technology research and also research in the social science field which is as significant as the first one. In the oriental world, where Somalia and Turkey are located, spending on social sciences is low compared to natural science research and development programs. We need to have talented and skilled individuals that can combine both natural science research skills and social science issues and needs. This opens for brain drain if we don’t develop and make progress in social science fields.


There are challenges in research and development in social science:

§  Weak state institutions that deal with research and development tasks accompanied by an inferiority complex and low self-confidence in the indigenous institutions that the states run or have. This creates a distrust that research institutions cannot produce tangible and useful research as done by their counterparts in the West.


§  Lack of a state grand strategy that entails all sides of human development that minimizes interdepartmental conflicts sabotage the strategies of other departments that is understood across departments and ministries and implemented smoothly with the utmost efficiency and coordination.


§  Resource scarcity accompanied by poor resource management in terms of resource waste and misappropriation which limits the amounts of resource that flows into strategic projects such as research and development.


Somalia and Turkey should partner in research endeavours covering the following issues:

§  Issues concerning the strength and weakness of the sovereign state and social cohesion. These issues resemble research done by Western powers and are used for their own interests. Both Turkey and Somalia need to conduct these kinds of research in order to enhance state developments and prevent crises and conflicts or reduce their impact and severity.


§  Issues regarding regional integration from a community perspective by researching communal factors that relate the people of two nations.


§  Issues that concern economic integration and trade in order to minimize challenges and remove social and economic barriers between our states.

The above-mentioned research initiatives can be implemented through research centres and universities of both nations.