Turkey positions itself in Africa: charitable, cultural, economic and now security diplomacy … The Euro-Asian country consolidates its position as a partner in Africa.
Turkey positions itself in Africa
Indeed, Turkey is not to be outdone in the economic powers‘ struggle for influence on the African continent. The country is positioning itself as an alternative partner to the former European colonial powers.
A strategy that is paying off: outgoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his investments are welcomed with open arms in many African countries.
Trade with Africa has increased by 4.4% in 20 years, and now accounts for 9.4% of Turkey’s exports.
Turkish furniture, for example, is uncompetitive in Europe but successful in Nigeria. And Turkey has become an attractive trading partner for West African countries, which prefer it to France because of its colonial past.
“Ultimately, Turkey is seeking to diversify its partnerships and international relations, and to conquer new markets”, says Alex Vines, director of the Africa program at London-based think tank Chattam House.
According to him, “this is also one of the main thrusts of the policy developed over the last twenty years”.
Turkey’s African strategy is not just about trade. It ranges from “soft power” with educational and social establishments or media projects, to infrastructure projects and humanitarian aid against famine in Somalia.
Turkish construction companies are well established in building roads, bridges, railroads, airports and mosques in Africa.
In return, the continent is becoming an increasingly important supplier of energy and raw materials for Turkey. Algeria, for example, is Turkey’s fourth-largest energy supplier.
“Turkey Days” will be organized in 4 countries between July and September
Under the slogan “Experience Turkey in Africa”, Turkey Days in Africa will take place for the first time in several West African countries.
Organized by Grevents World, under the aegis of DEIK and in partnership with several Turkish institutions including Maarif, TIKA and the Yunus Emre Institute, these days will aim to “raise awareness of Turkish culture and language”, Zeki Guvercin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Türkiye days Expo 2023”.
According to Guvercin, these days will also help “strengthen cooperation between Turkey and West Africa”, while “increasing trade relations”.
The days will take place on different dates in 4 West African countries. The inauguration will take place on July 22-23 in Senegal, followed by September 20-21 in Benin. Two days later, Togo will host the event on September 22-23, followed by Niger on September 25-26.
Between Africa and Turkey, a partnership that’s taking root
When the Turkish Republic came into being in 1923, Ankara cut itself off from the Middle East and Africa to look to the West and join NATO after 1945. The collapse of the Soviet Union, which put an end to the bipolarity of the Cold War, encouraged Turkey to reweave its own diplomatic web. As early as 1998, even before the AKP came to power, the Turkish authorities put in place an “Action Plan for an Opening to Africa”, to offer new perspectives to Turkey’s foreign policy, and, in the midst of globalization, to develop its economy”.
But it was really Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was to flesh out the links, giving of himself: with over 40 visits, sometimes two a year, he is the non-African leader who has visited the most states on the continent. In 2005, when he was Prime Minister, he launched the “Year of Africa”, a year ahead of China and five years ahead of France. Then, in 2008, the year of the first Africa-Turkey summit, he launched the “Strategic Partnership with the African Union”, with Ankara playing an observer role. Relations have been forged with ECOWAS and IGAD, but the emphasis is on bilateral relations.
In 15 years, Turkey’s network of embassies in Africa has grown from 12 to 44. Ankara is now also home to 37 African embassies. In December 2021, still in the midst of a health crisis, no fewer than 16 African heads of state and over 100 ministers from the continent travel to Istanbul for the third Africa-Turkey summit.