Turkey’s Africa opening reaches a new level
Launched in 1998, Turkey’s more than two-decade-long Africa opening has observed important turning points. Turkey’s bonds with the continent have strengthened after it became an observing member of the African Union in 2005 and a strategic partner of it in 2008. In 2013, an important step was taken to further improve relations with the continent by the launching of the Africa Partnership Policy.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s latest trip to Africa that covered three countries – Angola, Togo, and Nigeria – and the messages he disseminated from there demonstrate Turkey’s continued interest in the continent. It was his first visit to Angola and Togo as Erdoğan recalled that he made 41 visits to 30 African countries so far.
In Togo, he held a four-way meeting with the participation of the presidents of Burkina Faso and Liberia which allowed him to turn his stay in Lome into a regional visit. Erdoğan told journalists that he is planning to visit these countries and the sub-Saharan region in particular in the coming period.
Erdoğan’s recent engagement with the African leaders has an expanding portfolio. Cooperation in the field of the defense industry, the sales of more Turkish weaponry, and signing agreements on military and security cooperation came to the fore along with increasing political and economic relations.
In a statement to the journalists traveling with him, Erdoğan explained what they discussed during the four-way summit in Togo. “As the four leaders, we met over a working meal. The declaration that we issued following this meeting with the leaders highlighted, among other things, our decision to boost our security cooperation,” he said, adding that they also agreed to wage a more effective fight against terror organizations such as FETÖ, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and ISIL without discrimination.
It’s true that more African nations want to learn from Turkey’s experiences in combatting terrorism and to buy key military equipment including armed drones, armored vehicles and others. Angola is reportedly seeking to buy armed drones from Turkey with news that Ethiopia is also a potential market for Turkish drones. Turkey’s military sales to the continent have significantly increased in recent years, especially in the aviation sector.
Erdoğan said that although he visited in the past, another visit has become essential to South Africa as the most dynamic country in the region and stressed that this country’s “defense industry is especially strong.”
“The win-win principle based on mutual respect underpins our Africa vision. Africa is more of a partner to us rather than a market. We are fully aware that some countries view Africa through the lens of their interests rather than the lens of cooperation, as we do. Rather than relying on hubris, we advocate for an approach to Africa that is built on cooperation, solidarity, shared history, and knowledge and experience exchange. We are pleased to see that our African friends are aware of our sincere approach,” Erdoğan said, explaining how Turkey sees its ties with this continent.
In his long evaluation on his trip, Erdoğan referred to French colonialism in the African continent a couple of times, criticizing this country’s exploitation of the resources and massacres it committed. He also answered questions about the French media’s coverage of his Africa tour.
“Of course, it will not be easy for them to exploit there again. Imagine, the president of Nigeria, Mr [Muhammadu] Buhari, says, ‘They killed one million of our people.’ The French also killed one million people in Algeria. They killed 700,000 people in Rwanda. They get mad when you say that. In their understanding, you cannot expose them; you cannot mention these,” Erdoğan stated.
He also suggested that the African leaders are truly happy with Turkey’s engagement with the continent, saying, “Africa is acutely aware of and understands this at the moment. ‘Your arrival here is now also pending the West’s relations with Africa,’ they say. The Africans are content with this. The point is that we must now awaken and initiate Africa. Inshallah, the investments of our businessmen there will truly awaken Africa.”
Turkey has hosted the Turkey-Africa 3rd Economic and Business Forum in Istanbul on Oct. 21 and 22 and will organize the 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit in Istanbul on Dec. 17-18, spreading a clear message that it will continue to strive to further capitalize from the growing momentum in relationships.