by Aly Jonas

Oktay Ercan, the Turkish bad seed in Africa

Oktay Ercan, la mauvaise graine turque en Afrique

While Ankara tries to consolidate its ties with Africa, a sulphurous businessman, Oktay Ercan, travels the continent to try to obtain contracts, often illegally, as was the case in Sudan.

On the website of one of his companies, it could not be clearer: “With the approval of the President of the Republic of Sudan, SUR International Investment Company Ltd. has been recognized as a strategic company since November 2015. Oktay Ercan alone symbolizes the largesse granted to businessmen by the former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. Also a shareholder in Barer Holding, the Turkish businessman took advantage of his network to get as close as possible to the al-Bashir regime. But four years later, Ercan was caught up in his compromises. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reports how, in December 2019, the Sudanese prosecutor's office accused the Turk of having embezzled $70 million from a $120 million loan granted by the Islamic Development Bank. Ercan then allegedly overcharged for the equipment purchased by his company, after winning a rigged tender which allowed him to obtain a monopoly on the importation of uniforms for the Sudanese army. Oktay Ercan has also, indicates the Egyptian newspaper, obtained a license to market 60% of Sudanese cotton.

Oktay Ercan, persona non grata in Sudan

The Sudanese episode is far from anecdotal: Oktay Ercan “faces accusations of corruption in Sudan for other illicit transactions in the field of oil and minerals”, indicates Al-Ahram. It must be said that, with a textile background, Ercan has pursued a very offensive policy in Sudan, going so far as to rent from the Sudanese Ministry of Electricity the six generators which supply Khartoum or even to try to obtain stakes in the mines of gold of Tibesti. Proof that Ercan was very close to Omar al-Bashir: the dictator had granted Sudanese nationality to the businessman. Oktay Shaban Hosni Ali, as indicated on his Sudanese passport, may be persona non grata in Sudan, but he has not given up on Africa. The Turkish businessman has set himself the objective of supplying the West African armies and excluding the French groups MagForce International and Marck from these very lucrative markets. But his advantage – being associated with the Qatari Ministry of Defense – is no longer one: on the Doha side, we are gradually moving away from the sulphurous businessman.

Nur Sagman 's work undermined?

“Everywhere he goes, he gives a very bad image of Turkey in Africa,” summarizes a former Turkish diplomat still present on the continent, “thus undermining Nur Sagman’s road map.” The latter became Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “Madame Africa”. Does the Director General of the Sub-Saharan Africa Department of the Turkish Foreign Ministry know everything about the actions carried out by Oktay Ercan? “Ercan is a boorish, haughty character who acts with complete impunity,” says one of his former colleagues. He acts like a lone wolf with one goal: to make money. But his various incursions into Africa remained in vain.” It must be said that Le Truc's reputation precedes it: accused of having helped Carlos Ghosn, the former boss of Renault, to flee Japan by lending his Bombardier Challenger 300, Oktay Ercan does not flirt with legality. He steps over it. “Today, he is abandoned by his former partners, we have the impression that he is playing his best to try to save face,” says the former close friend of the businessman. But in Africa, those responsible are beginning to understand who they are dealing with.”