Brendon J. Cannon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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Turkey’s engagement with Somalia is striking for its brevity and ostensible success. Turkey has been involved in Somalia since just 2011, yet Ankara can point to a string of reported accomplishments and an arguably outsized presence in an often violent country regularly described as a failed state.
Turkey’s presence in Somalia certainly embodies one of the most interesting regional geopolitical developments in the past decade. It also represents one of the most misunderstood and confusing. Why did Turkey choose Somalia? And, after its initial humanitarian intervention in 2011, what internal and external forces have shaped and expanded that involvement? Furthermore, what explains Turkey’s reported triumphs?
Some have pointed to a shared history and a common Sunni Muslim heritage. This is questionable, at best, and alone cannot explain Turkey’s engagement with Somalia – let alone the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Others have noted Turkey’s economic clout and its status as a mid-sized country interested in trade rather than extracting resources.
Genuine humanitarian concerns have also, at least initially, driven Turkey’s engagement as well as the prospect of economic gain. Scholar Federico Donelli notes its approach to Somalia