Turkey’s Africa Policy and Recent Developments
Increasing its influence in Africa day by day, Turkey is one of the most influential foreign actors in the continent today. In the last two decades, the trade volume of this country with the continental countries has increased more than five times, exceeding $25 billion (Republic of Turkey MFA, 2021). Moreover, the activities of Turkish investors in this geography have reached the level of $6 billion (Huaxia, 2021). With the opening of the Togo embassy, the Ankara administration, which increased the number of its embassies in Africa from twelve to forty-three in the last fifteen years (Republic of Turkey MFA, 2021), also contributes to the state-building processes as in the case of Somalia and Libya, and tries to respond to the security needs of the continental countries recently. Turkish politicians, who criticize what the Westerners did in Africa in the past and their current inconsistent policies at every opportunity, emphasize "equal partnership" and "win-win" approaches in their relations with African countries as much as possible. (Presidency of The Republic of Turkey, 2021). At this point, although Turkey's increasing effectiveness in Africa worries some rival actors like France (Bensimon, 2021; Girard, 2021), the Ankara administration is strengthening its ties in the continent with every passing moment.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's diplomatic Africa tour on 17-20 October was primarily aimed at further developing his country's multilateral relations with continental countries. As part of his West Africa tour, the Turkish President first visited Angola, then Togo, and finally Nigeria. Erdogan, who made various contacts with the politicians and businesspeople in these visits, also met with the heads of state of Burkina Faso and Liberia during his trip to Togo. Thus, Erdogan has visited 30 African countries in total since he came to power in 2002 and so has officially been in more than half of the states in the continent. During Erdogan's short visits, which lasted three days, important topics such as developing commercial relations, increasing investments, cooperating in the field of security, and fighting the Feto terrorist organization were discussed (Directorate of Communications, 2021).
Within the scope of his visit to Angola, President Erdogan held talks between the two countries in the fields of politics, military, economy, culture, and defense industry. As a result of these negotiations, it is expected that the Angolan-Turkish trade volume would increase in time from 211 million dollars to 500 million dollars. In Togo, where the trade volume reached 150 million dollars according to 2020 data, negotiations were carried out in the field of the defense industry, as well as political and economic relations. In Nigeria, Turkey's largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa with the volume of 750 billion dollars, in addition to issues such as politics and economy, terrorist threats such as Feto and Boko Haram were evaluated mutually. Considering that Nigeria is one of the countries where the Feto terrorist organization is most effective in Africa, this was an extremely necessary move for Turkey's national security and international prestige (Kavak, 2021; Duz, 2021; Directorate of Communications, 2021). Undoubtedly, one of the focal points of all these talks was the SİHAs (Turkish drones), the product of Turkey's military technology that has achieved great success in Libya and Karabakh in the recent period.
The Turkish president's efforts towards Africa raise a new question: Is Turkey's Africa policy a state policy or just part of Erdogan's personal vision? Moreover, in a possible change of government, may Turkey easily give up its current influence in Africa? There are some opinions defending both interpretations on this issue, in Turkey and in the world. However, despite everything, even if the government changes after the possible 2023 elections, it seems unlikely that Turkey will step back from the capacity it has built with great precision in Africa in the last two or three decades. Therefore, whatever the political conditions, the Turkish state gives the impression that it will be one of the leading foreign actors in Africa, at least for a while more.
- Bensimon, C. (2021, October 18). Erdogan cherche à étendre son influence en Afrique. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from Le Monde: https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2021/10/18/erdogan-cherche-a-etendre-son-influence-en-afrique_6098762_3212.html
- Directorate of Communications. (2021, October 21). President Erdoğan speaks to journalists following visits to Angola, Togo and Nigeria. Retrieved Octer 23, 2021, from Presidency of Republic of Turkey: Directorate of Communications: https://www.iletisim.gov.tr/ENGLISH/haberler/detay/president-erdogan-speaks-to-journalists-following-visits-to-angola-togo-and-nigeria
- Duz, Z. N. (2021, October 21). Turkish president hails 4-day African tour as ‘productive'. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from AA: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkish-president-hails-4-day-african-tour-as-productive/2399283
- Girard, R. (2021, October 18). Renaud Girard: «Erdogan renforce son implantation africaine». Retrieved October 23, 2021, from Le Figaro: https://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/monde/renaud-girard-erdogan-renforce-son-implantation-africaine-20211018
- Huaxia. (2021, October 22). Turkish president says to expand trade with African countries. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from Xinhuanet: http://www.news.cn/english/europe/2021-10/22/c_1310262736.htm
- Kavak, G. (2021, October 17). Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan'ın Afrika turu: Atılan adımlar ve beklentiler. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from AA: https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/analiz/cumhurbaskani-erdoganin-afrika-turu-atilan-adimlar-ve-beklentiler/2394519
- Presidency of The Republic of Turkey. (2021, October 22). “Africa has an exceptional place in our hearts”. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from TCCB: https://www.tccb.gov.tr/en/news/542/131065/-africa-has-an-exceptional-place-in-our-hearts-
- The Republic of Turkey MFA. (2021). Turkey-Africa Relations. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from mfa.gov: https://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkey-africa-relations.en.mfa
Author: Hasan AYDIN
PHD Candidate at Shanghai University Global Studies & Istanbul Medeniyet University International Relations
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