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Çarşamba, Haziran 19, 2024

Turkey- Africa Relations From Past to Present

From its foundation to the present, Turkey has never given that much importance to the Dark Continent (Sub- Saharan Africa). For years African continent was seen as a continent which is disrupted with wars and abusiveness. According to this discourse, Africa was described as “poor, worthless, guilty, illiterate, underdeveloped, sick, desperate and ridiculous etc”.

Another remarkable characteristic of this discourse had a tendency to consider African continent as a one single homogenous country. Although there are obvious differences between the countries from North to South and East to West, this idea assumes that the economic, political and historical experiences of these 53 countries as identical.

However, the struggle for having a voice against globalization, which is frequently mentioned nowadays, on the international platform, Turkey felt obliged to change its long-standing reserved policies towards Africa. In the last years, Turkey has enhanced its efforts to improve its affairs with Africa in every respect. In this respect, important attempts have been made to improve affairs with Africa. Africa has an important place in terms of having rich underground sources, market place for ready-to-consume products, partnership for energy, supply of raw material for the local industry.

For this reason, Africa is one of the most favorite destinations for Turkish companies. Besides, Africa does not conceal its interest for the qualified Turkish products, especially for technology transfers needed for infrastructural improvement. The complementary elements among two parties seem to appear as a strong link among Turkey and Africa.

According to the historical conjunctures, these affairs have been active or stable from time to time. We can divide affairs among Turkey and Africa into 3 in accordance with the conjunctures: Ottoman Period, Republic Period and AKP [Development and Justice Party] Government Period.

Ottoman Period

In this period, larger part of the continent belonged to the Ottomans. Relations among Ottomans and North Africa were fairly well. Ottoman Empire prevented some invasions in North Africa by providing military force.

Some Sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia even Niger and Chad partly belonged to the Ottoman Empire. During the wave of colonization, Ottoman Empire played an active role in the Eastern Africa in order to balance the Portuguese expansion. When it comes to the North Sub- Saharan region, the Ottomans were the part of the equilibrium of powers. In this respect, they sealed an alliance with Kanem- Bornu Empire which ruled today’s North Nigeria, Niger and Chad.

Kanem-Bornu Empire made a defensive alliance with Ottoman Empire during Sultan Murat III reign in 1575. In direction with this alliance, Sultan sent military equipage and devices. Since 1861, Ottomans had diplomatic representatives in South Africa. Assignment of PE de Roubaix to the honorary consul general in Cape Town paved the way for another series of assignments. First Turkish consul, Mister Mehmet Remzi was assigned to South Africa in 21 April 1914. He continued his job until he died in 14 February 1916.

Republic Period

After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Turkish-African relations almost stopped. The establishment of a new government, securing the independence and the internal conditions such as colonization peculiar to both countries created this situation.

During the Cold War, Turkey improved its economic and political affairs with North African countries by showing more interest to Africa. Yet, since bipolar condition created by the Cold War formed affairs, differences between people’s opinions targeting the continent came up from time to time. When Ghana gained its independence in 1957, Turkey recognized Ghana’s independence and afterwards established a permanent embassy there. During the late 50s and early 60s, with the beginning of the decolonization process in Africa, Turkey recognized all newly independent countries. Turkey established political relations with these countries and opened permanent embassies.

Yet this situation was never based on long-lasting and important affairs and Turkey did not seriously involve in Africa related issues. However we need to emphasize that since 1970 affairs among Turkey and the African countries has improved slightly due to Turkey’s changing economic and political affairs. In spite of this situation, Sub-Saharan Africa did not have an important place in Turkey’s foreign policy. After the decolonization process in Africa, Turkey made an initiative plan in the name of changing foreign policy in 1970. Yet, Turkey missed the chance of permanently improving political, economic, and commercial affairs with Africa. This plan was postponed because of the Cyprus case which interfered with the relationship among Turkey and its Western allies. Lack of physical attempts with regard to establishing better affairs with Africa was partly the outcome of other contemporary cases in Turkey. Yet the main reason was that Turkey’s interest, knowledge and strategy on what to do in Africa was insufficient. Turkey’s Africa initiative occurred in 90s, only after the acceptance of Africa Action Plan. Especially AKP government took the aforesaid initiative seriously and this effort was supported by various non-governmental organizations.

One of the most important turning points of affairs among Africa and Turkey occurred in Turkey-Africa Summit in İstanbul between the dates of 18-21 August in 2008. In this summit, “Turkey and Africa Cooperative İstanbul Declaration”, “Cooperation and Unity for a Common Future” and “the Frame of Cooperation for the Partnership of Turkey and Africa” were accepted by consensus. 6 Presidents from 49 African countries, 5 Vice Presidents, 7 Prime Ministers, 1 Vice Prime Minister, 14 Foreign Affairs Ministers, 12 Ministers and 11 international and regional organization representatives including African Union’s attended the  In this summit, which is definitely a turning point for the construction of the continuous mutual relationship among Turkey and Africa, leading cooperation areas are specified as: cooperation among governments, trade and investment, agriculture, agricultural trade, rural progress, management of the water resources, small and medium sized business, health, peace and security, infrastructure (transportation and telecommunication), media, information technology and environment. In 2003, Foreign Trade Undersecretary prepared a document in relation with the Development of the Economic Affairs with African Countries and 2005 was declared as the African Year. In this year, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the first Turkish Prime Minister visiting Ethiopia and South Africa which are known as Sub-equatorial. In 12 April 2005, Turkey gained observer status in African Union. In 5 May 2005, Turkey became a country that has an accredited embassy in Addis Ababa before the Organization of African Union. In January 2008, in the 10th African Union Summit held again in Addis Ababa, Turkey was declared as one of the strategic allies of the African continent. In 2007’s government program, in the name of becoming regional power and global factor unlike as it was in 2002’s program, Africa was taken into consideration. For the purpose of tracking the implementation of decisions taken in this very important summit for Africa and Turkey, in accordance with the document of “Turkey and Africa Cooperative Framework” an observing mechanism is accepted. After this summit, in 2010 Senior Officers Summit was held and “Turkey and Africa Partnership Shared Application Plan” covering 2010-2014 which is a road map was accepted. In 2011, for the purpose of evaluating the process of partnership and making preparations for the next Summit, a Review Conference was held with the attendance of Ministers, and it was decided that II. Turkey-Africa Cooperative Summit will be conducted in 2013 in a country to be determined; however this decision was changed later on. II. Summit is decided to be held in İstanbul rather than an African country. It is considered to be held in October. Turkey improved its affairs with African Regional Organizations. Turkish Embassy in Abuja in Nigeria was accredited in 2005 in the presence of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In 2008, Turkey became a member of “Inter-Governmental Development Authority (IGAD) International Partnership Forum”. In 2010, Turkish Embassy in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) was accredited in the presence of “East Africa States Community (EAC)”. Turkish Embassy in Lusaka (Zambia) was decided to be accredited in the presence of “Common Market for Eastern Southern Africa (COMESA)”. Turkey’s attendance to African Development Bank and African Development Fund were accepted in Governor’s Assembly held in 14-15 May 2008. In the United Nations’ Security Council 2009, except for 3 countries, all African countries voted for Turkey and the President Abdullah Gül promised to be the voice of African countries in the Council.

In recent years, mutual high-profile visits were made between Turkey and Africa. President Abdullah Gül visited various African countries such as Ghana and Gabon (2011), Kenya and Tanzania (2009), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria (2010). Prime Minister Erdoğan visited Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and South Africa. Besides African Presidents from Nigeria, Chad, Djibouti, Somalia, Mauritania, Uganda, and Zambia visited Turkey.

Turkish Airlines have also an important role in the strengthening process of the relations. In recent years the company opened new flight lines into service and increased direct flights to Africa; and this way  has become easier. You can fly to 23 countries of Africa with Turkish Airlines. Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) engages in activities in order to develop technical assistance projects on various fields. TİKA opened 3 regional offices (i.e. Addis Ababa (2005), Dakar (2007) and Nairobi (2012)) in order to provide coordination for the projects in Africa. A Regional Office is planned to be founded in Cairo soon. Besides in 2011, Contact Offices were opened in Tripoli and Mogadishu. Up to now, TİKA handled projects in 37 different countries. The development aid provided by public institutions and nongovernmental organizations in Turkey was 97 million dollars in 2009 and reached 102 million dollars in 2010. With the help of the Initiative Action Plan of Turkey to Africa, trade with Africa increased gaining a salient momentum. Within the last decade, Turkey’s export to Africa was 1,7 billion dollars in 2002, and it increased 7-times more and became 13,3 billion dollars in 2012. Every year, our export to Africa increases 23% in average.

Moreover, Turkey’s direct investments on Africa did increase about 500 million dollars. Turkish Exim Bank spared a support grant of 750 million dollars for Tunisia and 1 billion dollars for Egypt. Turkey’s expansion to Africa is an outcome of Turkey’s internal change and the change happening in the global political economy.

Turkey’s internal change challenges traditional Turkish partners in economy and aims to diversify the trade options in accordance with the changes in the global political economic power. A change in the international system urges the states to decide their own interests in direction with the newly emerged system. Turkey follows a multifarious policy against these sorts of variations; instead of developing relations only with close neighbors, it develops its economic and political bindings with other regions and continents. Turkey’s expansion to Africa is an inseparable part of the new Turkish foreign policy.

Mohamed Mouncharou (Concept Consultant)

* This article was taken from “Africa Time” magazine (November 2014 Edition) by demanding all necessary permissions for copyright.



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