Economic relations between Sudan and Turkey have been growing recently with a slight increase in trade. But there are political complications; as one expert has said, Khartoum needs Ankara more than Ankara needs Khartoum.
The latest data from the Sudanese Foreign Trade Ministry indicate that the value of Turkish investment in the country amounted to approximately $2bn in the 17 years up to 2017.
A report from the Sudanese Investment Ministry shows that the number of investment projects in Sudan had reached 288 in the same period, all linked to agriculture, while Sudan imports electronics, industrial and agricultural production materials and clothes from Turkey.
After a rare visit by the Turkish Prime Minister in December last year, a plan was presented to develop economic ties, with an agreement to establish a strategic cooperation council between the two countries, and another to promote cooperation in military affairs.
The Turkish businessman, Octai Shaaban Hosni is considered one of the most notable investors in Sudan; he has a former partnership with the Sudanese military establishment to provide uniforms and civilian clothes. Through this partnership, he was able to acquire a number of factories that had been shut down in various parts of Sudan, especially in Aljazzera state with an agricultural project producing cotton. He is also involved in the services sector and has bought two malls in Khartoum, Waha Mall and Afraa Mall. 7DNews has learned that Octai is considering purchasing one of the biggest football clubs, Al-Merrikh, where he is currently a board member.
Octai is not the only major Turkish investor in Khartoum, as the Turkish Exports Development Bank has contributed to infrastructure projects in Khartoum, with two new bridges - Almalik Namr and Alhalfaia - as well as a waterworks and a sanitation station, with funding estimated at $100m.
Turkey also provided Sudan with credit facilities of approximately $100m in 2008 which later increased to $200m.
Back in March this year the Sudanese government signed an agreement with the Turkish Soma company to refurbish Khartoum airport through the B.O.T system, with more than $1bn.
The cost of the first stage of the project is $800m, whilst the gross cost of the project is $1.15bn.
The development of economic relations between the two countries can be measured by examining previous official data that indicate the value of the trade exchange between the two in 2013 was about $291m, and rose in 2015 to approximately $320m.
Sudan lost nearly $1bn from the ban on commercial activities related to the organisation of Fathullah Gulen, after President Erdogan's government accused him of plotting a coup against the regime in 2016.
The Gulen organisation had concentrated on the industrial area in Khartoum and Port Sudan, the key port on the Red Sea. The Sudanese government said the investments were handed over to the Turkish government, but a number of economists interviewed by 7Dnews confirmed that all activities of the Gulen organisation in Sudan were stopped when the government banned it in August 2016.
Kabashi Albakri, who researches relations between Sudan and Turkey, says they are founded on efforts by Ankara to expand into Africa, with Sudan considered the gateway from Turkey to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He told 7Dnews that Sudan understood the Turkish view that Sudan is the gateway to African countries that do not have ports.
However, Albakri describes economic activity as below expected levels, with Sudan anticipating commercial exchanges in the range of $10bn compared to $2bn in 2017. He points to the deal at Suakin, the historical area that lies on the Red Sea, as one of many deals that have been made, with a gross value of $650m.
Albakri suggests that the future of these relations must be seen through Sudan's need for investment and Turkish experience, saying there are many factors that make Sudan's need for Turkey greater Turkey's need for Sudan, especially in economic areas.
Despite Turkey’s recent economic crisis, Albakri underlines the similarity of the political ideologies of the rulers in Khartoum and Ankara.
The economic expert, Haitham Fathi, expresses fears that Sudan lacks the expertise to follow up and increase the amount of trade with Turkey. Fathi says Sudan can take advantage of Turkey's plan to increase the size of the exchange, especially given that the Turkish investment fund exceeds $700bn. However, he indicates another factor, which is that most Turkish investment in Sudan is aimed at the private sector, whereas investment in the Sudanese government is more efficient than the private sector, which may face internal obstacles or an unprepared investment environment.
In December, Sudan offered Turkish businessmen an investment of one million acres for farming cotton and seeds. The Turkish Deputy Minister of Economy, Fatih Matin also announced the start of Turkish investment in oil to develop the production to the south and west of Kordofan once technical studies have been completed.