Turkey’s Africa policy: Not only business but human-oriented

Turkey's policy towards the African continent, which has taken its first important steps since the 2000s, is now showing itself with rising relations in many fields from economy to humanitarian aid, from defense industry to education.

Turkey took its first step with the "Africa Initiative Action Plan" in 1998 in order to accelerate political, military, cultural and economic relations in Africa. This step was followed by the government's resolute declaration of 2005 as the "Year of Africa".

While relations were developing in many areas, Turkey was declared the strategic partner of this continent at the African Union (AfB) summit held in 2008, and the African Strategic Document was accepted in 2010, following the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit held in Istanbul the same year.

Turkey gained observer status in the African Union (AfB) on 12 April 2005 and the Addis Ababa embassy was accredited by the AfB on 5 May 2005. In addition, with the decision taken at the 10th AfB Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2008, Turkey was declared as one of the strategic partners of the AfB. Africa-Turkey summits were held in 2008 and 2014.

Turkey is advancing rapidly in many areas such as political relations, trade, investment, cultural projects, security and military cooperation with the countries of the region within the framework of the African initiative that it started in 2005.

ECONOMIC RELATIONS

In the last 19 years, the political trust between Turkey and African countries has moved to a much higher level and Turkey's bilateral trade volume with African countries has increased 4 times.

While Turkey's trade volume with Africa was 5.3 billion dollars in 2003, it has exceeded 25 billion dollars today. Turkey's investments in Africa exceeded 7 billion dollars, and the value of projects carried out by Turkish contractors in Africa exceeded 65 billion dollars.

There is also an increase in Turkey's defense industry exports to African countries. In recent years, 4x4 tactical wheeled armored vehicles have been exported to African countries. Towards the end of 2020, TUSAŞ made the first export of ANKA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Tunisia.

Turkey has a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement with 46 African countries, a Mutual Promotion and Protection of Investments Agreement with 28 continental countries, and a Double Taxation Prevention Agreement with 12 African countries.

While Joint Economic Commission meetings are held with Turkey and 27 African countries, Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) has business councils with 43 African countries.

CULTURAL DIPLOMACY

Increasing the number of embassies stands out as an important driving force in accelerating Turkey's relations with Africa.

Turkey, which opened its first embassy in the African continent in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, in 1925, opened its first embassy in Sub-Saharan Africa in Ethiopia in 1926. The number of embassies in the continent of Turkey increased to 43 with the steps taken. Planning to open its 44th embassy in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, one of the West African countries, Turkey aims to increase the number of embassies in the continent to 50.

In Africa, China has 52 embassies, the USA 50, France 47, Turkey and Germany 42, Russia 40, Japan and England 36 embassies.

Middle East Studies Center (ORSAM) expert Kaan Devecioğlu stated that Turkey does not approach Africa only on the axis of economic relations and drew attention to humanitarian aid. Noting that Turkey contributes to Africa in the fields of education and health, Devecioğlu explained that Ankara first developed diplomatic relations by opening embassies in order to improve relations with Africa. Devecioğlu also stated that France is the rival actor in the continent for Turkey.

Turkey also encourages the development of transportation vehicles to strengthen its interaction with Africa. Currently, THY has access to 361 destinations in Africa.

It should be noted that the scholarships provided by Turkey to African students are also an important factor in the development of relations with this continent. More than 10,000 African students have been awarded undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral scholarships since 1992.

TURKEY STANDS OUT ON THE CONTINENT

According to the 2018 African Wealth Report published by Africa-based Afrasia Bank, the economic presence of Africa has increased by 15 percent in the 13-year period covering the 2007-2020 period. Forecasts predict that Africa's economic presence will increase by 34% by the end of 2027.

Africa, consisting of 54 countries, is a very rich continent in terms of raw materials, especially gold, diamonds, manganese, platinum, vanadium, coal, oil and natural gas. Again, the young population has many opportunities in terms of agriculture and fishing.

While the aging population and depleted raw materials in other parts of the world make it necessary for humanity to develop new technologies, the fact that Africa contains these two important resources attracts the attention of many countries.

In this context, along with China, Russia and France, Turkey also continues to develop its relations with the continent. Relations with the region are strengthened not only economically but also culturally.

Turkey is making a great effort in solving continental problems. Turkey hosted a conference titled "Preparing Somalia's Future: 2015 Goals" organized in Istanbul in cooperation with the UN on May 21, 2012, with the participation of 57 countries, 11 regional and international organizations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited 30 of 54 countries in Africa during his visit to Angola, Togo and Nigeria on 17-20 October.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Turkey has sent 200 thousand doses of Sinovac vaccine to African countries. It was reported that a total of 611 thousand doses of vaccine collected from member countries of the Organization of Turkish States were delivered to Burkina Faso and Togo.

Turkey, which is built on ensuring stability and peace, contributing to the development of the countries in the region, free aid in the fields of humanitarian aid, reconstruction, security, public diplomacy and mediation, using regional resources for the benefit of African communities, developing bilateral relations on the basis of equal partnership and mutual benefit. Africa policy continues with a strategic, long-term and mutual development focused understanding.