Turkey’s Africa multi-pronged strategy

03 August 2016 10:23

Marco Cochi


Photo from website: journal-neo.org

In the succession of comments about the reasons that last July 15 have led a part of Turkish army of orchestrating the attempted coup in Turkey, analysts have reserved ample space for the choices, not always successful, that characterized Ankara’s foreign policy focused on the prospect to project the country to guide of the Muslim world.

The Erdogan government’s international relations have been characterized by a good dose of pragmatism, through which he turned his gaze also to Africa, where adopted a targeted policy, focusing in particular its attention on the Somali crisis.

1998: Ankara opens its African policy

The Ottoman activism in the African continent was initiated in connection with‘Africa Action Plan’, launched in 1998 by the World Bank. Since then, thanks to the historical and cultural ties, relations between the two geographical realities have increased, both in trade and in the institutional sphere.

In 2003, Erdogan’sgovernment, newly installed, has instructed the Ministry of Foreign Trade to prepare a strategy for the expansion of economic relations with African countries. However, the development of relations between Turkey and Africa is realized when the Turkish government decided to declare 2005 the “Year of Africa” and the prime minister went on a visit to Ethiopia and South Africa.

In the same year, Turkey has granted observer status in the African Union and the following year, the Confederation of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (TUSKON) organized the firstTrade Bridge between Turkey and Africa.

In May 2007, Ankara is accepted as a non-regional member of the African Development Bank, an award that will allow the Turkish companies operating in Africa to win the contract for major infrastructure projects.

On the other hand, what, in effect, can be considered the turning point in the Turkish-African relations it is 2008, when Turkey is declared strategic partner of the African Union.

The event of 2008, which indelibly marks the relations between the two blocks, is the“Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit” held with the participation of 49 African countries on 18-21 August 2008, in Istanbul. The Summit initiated a steady and sustainable cooperation process enshrined in the adoption of the Istanbul Declaration.

Opening up to the African continent also holds a special place in the foreign policy of “zero problems with neighbors”, elaborated and implemented in 2010 by the then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Then, on May 2011, Turkey is hosting in Istanbul the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. After the meeting,Ankara proposed itself as “the voice of Africa”, in all international forums to which it belongs.

While in November 2014, was held the second summit of Turkey-Africa Cooperation in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. At the end of the summit was signed 2015-2019 Joint Implementation Plan.

The ultimate Erdogan’s Africa tours

In recent months, the official visits of the Turkish prime minister in African capitals have taken place in increasing of bilateral agreements stipulations. In late January, Erdogan led a business delegation to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. Between February and March, he visited Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal with the aim of extending the sphere of Turkish influence also in the African-Western.

Then, in early June, Erdogan traveled to Kampala and Nairobi for strategic talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He continued his diplomatic tour in Somalia, where he inaugurated the largest embassy of the Turkish government throughout the African continent.

Turkey’s relations with Somalia are very extensive, as evidence the fact that in August 2011, Erdogan was the first non-African leader to visit the country in the Horn of Africa over the past two decades. Moreover, to find a solution to the Somali crisis, in May 2010 and in June 2012, Turkey has hosted two international conferences in Istanbul.

The experience of the tormented country is an example of how Ankara uses all the tools of ‘soft power’ at its disposal to increase its influence on the continent. In this way, in a few years off diplomatic and trade,have been transformed Turkey’s relations with the black continent.

Since 2009, Ankara has tripled the number of its embassies in Africa, which now amounts to 39. While, Turkish International Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) currently operates 15 Program Coordination Offices in Africa.

Ankara has also strengthened its air links with sub-Saharan Africa with new routes of Turkish Airlines. The flag carrier is currently operational towards fifty destinations covering 34 countries of the continent and is the first airline in the world for number of connections to the African capitals.

On the economic front, the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Africa reached 17.5 billion dollars in 2015, equivalent to three times that recorded in 2003. Numbers that highlight not only a quantitative increase, but also a jump quality in relations between Turkey and Africa.