[dehai-news] (Today's Zaman, Turkey) Turkey discovers Africa: implications and prospects

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Jan 05 2009 - 08:55:37 EST


Turkey discovers Africa: implications and prospects

There has been a revival in Turkey's relation with Africa after 1998.
Initially this revival came as a passive attempt, but after 2005 it became
an offensive interest in developing relations with the continent. The recent
Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit marks the latest stage in Turkey's keen
interest in developing relations with Africa, and should be seen as a
turning point if it is followed with concrete projects in political and
economic fields. The key challenge, however, lies in the mutual lack of
knowledge and familiarity between the two regions, coupled with general
uncertainty regarding how to further relations.

Less than a decade ago it was unthinkable that, at a major conference, with
all the Turkish ambassadors present and representatives from all over the
world on hand, the Turkish foreign minister would declare that "we attach
particular importance to Africa within the context of our new perspective
policies," and further, that "in the next few years, we shall establish
fifteen new embassies in the continent of Africa."[1] One month after this
speech, Turkish President Abdullah Gül hosted the first ever Turkey-Africa
Cooperation Summit between 18–21 August 2008 in Istanbul with the
participation of representatives from fifty African countries. Turkey
currently has twelve embassies and twenty honorary consulates throughout
Africa, while only thirteen African countries have resident embassies in
Ankara, three of which have only recently been opened. What has changed that
Turkey has decided to open new embassies in Africa? Is it a sign of a deep
policy change toward Africa in Turkish foreign policy? Or only a temporary

Turkey-Africa Relations: Short History

Turkey's relations with Africa can be divided into three periods. The first
period covers the Ottoman State's relations with Africa until the
establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, during which the Ottomans had
considerable relations with Africa. From 1923 to 1998, Turkish-Africa
relations were at their lowest level, if they could be said to exist at all.
After 1998, with the acceptance of the World Bank's Africa Action plan,
there has been a revival in Turkey's interest in Africa. Initially, this
occurred passively; after 2005, however, it became an offensive interest in
developing relations with Africa.

"What has changed that Turkey has decided to open new embassies in Africa?
Is it a sign of a deep policy change toward Africa in Turkish foreign
policy? Or only a temporary one?"

Historically, relations between Turks and Africa go back several centuries.
Some African countries were totally or partially subject to Ottoman rule,
such as Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, the Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia,
Djibouti, Somalia and even Niger and Chad. In the northern Sub-Sahara
region, the Ottomans were part of the balance of powers system, enjoying
friendship and alliance with the Kanem Burnu Empire that still prevails in
today's Northern Nigeria, Niger and Chad.[2] With regard to Southern Africa,
the Ottoman State sent an Imam, Abu Bakr Effendi, to the Muslims of the Cape
of Good Hope in 1863 upon the request of the Muslim Community there. The
Muslims of South Africa actively participated in the Hejaz railway
construction campaigns, raising funds and collecting at least 366.55 pounds
between 1900–1907.[3] After the donations, the Ottoman States distributed
more than 200 medals in gold, silver and nickel to those who had
contributed.[4] After the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923,
however, Turkey-Africa relations quickly downgraded to their lowest
level.Turkey opened its first official mission in Lagos in 1956 and
recognized all newly independent countries.[5]

In 1998, Turkey adopted a new policy document called the "Opening up to
Africa Policy." Within its framework, Turkey hoped to further develop its
political, economic and cultural ties with African countries in the
forthcoming period. The so-called 'Africa Policy' comprises several areas,
such as developing diplomatic relations, and fostering political, economic
and cultural cooperation. However, Turkey's opening to Africa truly came
into existence only in 2005 when Turkey announced "the year of Africa."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Ethiopia and South
Africa in March 2005, becoming the first Turkish prime minister to
officially visit a country under the equator line. During this same year,
Turkey enhanced its relations with Africa on an institutional level. Turkey
obtained "observer status" in the African Union on 12 April 2005, and
accredited its embassy in Addis Ababa to the African Union on 5 May 2005.
The last African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2008 declared
Turkey as a "strategic partner."

Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit: Why Now?

Turkey's push to open the door to Africa was recently crowned with a
historical meeting in Istanbul, hosted under the auspices of Turkish
President Abdullah Gul. The first Turkey-Africa Summit, under the theme of
"Solidarity and Partnership for a Common Future," was held between 18–21
August 2008. In attendance were representatives from fifty countries, with
the absence of Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. Morocco was represented
although it is not a member of the African Union due to the dispute over the
recognition of Western Sahara.

Turkey under the AK Party administration has brought a new vision to
Turkey's Africa initiative,[6] and certainly aims to fill the relations gap
which emerged after nearly a century of negligence. To make up the loss in
time and accelerate relations between Turkey and Africa, the summit provided
a venue to increase bilateral contacts and search for new ways of developing
relations;[7] the Turkish President in a press meeting said that he "had
bilateral talks with the heads of delegations of 42 countries within the
scope of the summit."[8] Similarly, the bilateral meetings of Prime Minister
Erdogan seem likely to give an impetus to developing relations with Africa
in the years to come. The magnitude of those bilateral meeting isimportant,
given that the Turkish President and Prime Minister were meeting delegations
from some of the African countries for the first time, and vice versa, and
that no high-level meeting of such a nature had ever taken place before
between Turkey and those countries. Given the fact that neither Turkey nor
many African countries know each other well, these meetings and the summit
itself is expected to help familiarize both sides to each other.

If one looks at the level of participation in the Summit, six African
presidents, five vice-presidents, six prime ministers and a deputy-prime
minister were present. The rest of the fifty countries were represented
either by foreign ministers or senior-level representatives. The lack of
high-level representation and interest in the Summit, for example from South
Africa, which is quite influential in African affairs, is a clear indication
that the benefits of Turkey's African opening to Africans themselves is not
clear in Africans' minds. Turkey's over-emphasis on trade relations with
Africa is perplexing at best, and what Africa really stands to gain from the
offer of partnership is open to question – as least in the minds of many
African people.[9] Turkey needs to explain and find new ways of bringing
about a win-win situation in order to get the serious and influential
African players to come to the relations table. Unless this is achieved,
future Turkey-Africa Summits will only be an arena where Turkish and African
leaders come together for purposes other than that of creating serious and
long-term partnerships for the benefit of both sides.

"Turkey's trade volume with African countries was only 5.4 billion USD in
2003; since then it has increased more than two-fold, exceeding 12 billion
dollars in 2007."

Economic and Political Motives Turkey's trade volume with African countries
was only 5.4 billion USD in 2003; since then it has increased more than
two-fold, exceeding 12 billion dollars in 2007. Yet, considering that
Turkey's total global trade volume amounts to almost 300 billion dollars,
its current trade volume with African countries is still not significant.
Turkey's target is to reach a trade volume of 30 billion dollars with Africa
by the end of 2010.10

Currently, there are hundreds of Turkish firms operating in various African
countries. The contracting services provided by Turkish firms in those
countries alone have reached a total of 18 billion US dollars. In addition,
the amount of Turkish direct investments in African countries now exceeds
500 million USD and is expected to increase in the future.[11]

Turkey became the 25th non-regional member of the African Development Bank
in May 2008. This membership is expected to open new areas of cooperation.
For example, Turkey's membership in the African Development Bank could
assist contracting firms from Turkey in undertaking large infrastructure
projects on the continent.

Along with developing economic relations, Turkey also has political
expectations from the Turkey-Africa Summit in both the short and long term.
In the short term, Turkey needs the support of African countries as it is
one of three candidates for the non-permanent seat on the UN Security
Council with election due to take place in October 2008. Apparently, Turkey
reached its immediate goal, as Turkish President Gul confidently stated that
African countries fully supported Turkey's candidacy.[12] In the long term,
Turkey hopes to cooperate with African countries in international forums
such as the UN and exchange views on regional and global issues. To lay the
ground for the cooperation in the long run, the Turkey-Africa Summit is
scheduled to be held every five years. An African country will host the
second summit in 2013.[13] It has also been decided that the Turkish Union
of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) and the Union of African Chambers
of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Professions (UACCIAP) will cooperate
to establish the Turkish-African Chamber for furthering commercial

What Africa Gains from This Partnership

Economically, both sides benefit from increasing trade between Turkey and
Africa, as it creates employment and investment. Moreover, Africa has been
the continent where Turkish international aid and development projects have
steadily increased over the last several years. The Turkish International
Cooperation Agency (TIKA) expanded its area of operation after 2003; the
most notable expansion of its activities has taken place in Africa.[15] TIKA
currently has three offices in Africa, namely in Ethiopia, Sudan and
Senegal. TIKA offices support development projects in their respective
regions and from these three offices it operates in 37 countries in Africa.
With the opening of new Embassies all over the continent, one can expect
that the number of TIKA offices in Africa will increase as well, thus
increasing Turkish aid flow to the continent.

The projects and activities of TIKA in Africa are designed to serve such
long term purposes as the development of social and economic infrastructure
on the continent and, to a lesser extent, to provide support in urgent and
humanitarian issues when needed in crisis times.[16] In August 2008, TIKA
initiated an African Agricultural Development Program in order to help
develop agriculture in Africa. According to TIKA President Musa Kulaklikaya,
this project will last from 2008 to 2010 and be implemented in thirteen
African countries, namely in Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guinea,
Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Comoros, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda
and Uganda.[17]

"TIKA offices support development projects in their respective regions and
from these three offices it operates in 37 countries in Africa"

Turkey is also working in cooperation with international organizations for
the development of Africa. It has allocated 50 million USD for the financing
of development projects in African countries over the next five years. So
far, Turkey has donated 7.5 million dollars to various African countries via
international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World
Food Program (WFP) and the Red Crescent to assist them in coping with the
negative effects of draught and other natural disasters. The latest donation
amounts to 3.5 million USD in humanitarian aid through the WFP.[18]

Politically, Africa expects Turkey's support through its membership in
several international organizations. For example, Turkey promised that if it
gets elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the
period of 2009-2010, it will pay special attention to African issues. Given
that the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the UNDP have been
headed by Turkish citizens, African countries also expect these forums to
pay special attention to African issues and see its budding relations with
Turkey in this light as an advantage for them.[19]

Policy Recommendations

Turkey has no colonial background in Africa, but does have cultural and
religious ties dating back to the Ottoman period. This is an advantage for
Turkey. However, a coherent and serious Turkish opening-up-to-Africa
strategy should also consider following points:

Turkey should have different ways of considering and dealing with Africa and
African issues. Africa is not one or united. A divisive and regional
approach is necessary for success. In addition to North Africa, one can see
four regions: south, central, west and east Africa. Each has different
characteristics, mostly due to varying ethnic-religious compositions and
colonial backgrounds.
A gateway country-based approach is also needed. In each region, there are
some key countries; if possible, Turkey should pay special attention in
developing bilateral relations with them without sidelining others.
Tentatively, South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, and Senegal can be named. The more Turkey strengthens its relations
with these key countries, the more it can feel secure in Africa.
The different colonial backgrounds of the countries in Africa play quite
decisive roles in African politics. British, Francophone, Portuguese and
Spanish Africa are all different in their ways of thinking and their
approach to issues. This fact should be taken seriously while developing
relations with each country.
There exist two types of leadership in Africa. One is represented by the
older generation, those who led the processes of decolonization and
independence for their countries. The other is the second generation:
leaders after the independence. While the former are more or less
inward-looking and suspicious of foreign help, the latter are for the most
part forward-looking and willing to work with outside powers. Intensifying
relations with the latter group could make Turkey's relations with Africa
more meaningful and long-lasting.
Turkey has recently developed its relations with Africa at the institutional
level, involving itself in such bodies as the African Union and Africa
Development Bank. Ankara should continue to strengthen ties with the
existing institutions in Africa (NEPAD, IGAD, SADC, ECOWAS, etc.) as part of
its long-term policy. Turkey should envision and implement the Turkey-Africa
Cooperation Summit as a venue for forging a common, institutionalized form
of Turkish-African relations.
Turkey's Africa policy should have global dynamics. Following on, and if
possible participating in, such inter-continental groupings as the
India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA Dialogue Forum) is the best
way to link relations with Africa and the world. This linkage could expand
theboundaries of relations between Turkey and Africa by adding an
international dimension.
The most persistent issue looming between Turkey and Africa is the lack of
information about the other on both sides. Three strategies could be
implemented: (a) Promote support for sending exchange students to studying
in each other's countries and learn about each other. This will bridge the
societal and informational gap. (b) Exchange academics between universities.
Especially in southern Africa, there is a lack of experts on the Middle East
and Turkey, and the same is true for Turkey about Africa. Creating an
African chair for African professors in one (or more) of the Turkish
universities that offer education in English would be a good start. This
might lead to an institute in the long run. (c) Support cooperation between
African and Turkish think-thanks. Organizing joint conferences and
publications about both sides on Turkish and African issues would create
awareness, equally important on both sides.


SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
[*] Sevilla University, Spain

The Opening Statement of the Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan at the
Ambassadors Conference, Bilkent Hotel and Conference Center, Ankara, 15 July
2008, "Global Trends and Turkish Foreign Policy",
18 July 2008).
For more on Ottoman-Africa relations see Ahmet Kavas, Afrika Raporu,
Stratejik Rapor No: 4, Istanbul: TASAM Publications, February 2005, pp.
7-18; and Osmanlı-Afrika Iliskileri, Istanbul: TASAM Publications, 2006.
Orhan Kologlu, Hicaz Demiryolu, (1900-1908) Amaci, Finansmani, Sonucu,
Cagini Yakalayan Osmanli, Istanbul: IRCICA Publication, 1995, p. 220-222.
On Abu Bakr Effendi, see Selim Argun, The life and contribution of the
Osmanli scholar, Abu Bakr Effendi : Towards Islamic Thought and Culture in
South Africa, Unpublished MA thesis, University of Johannesburg, South
Africa, 2005.
Salih Zeki Karaca, "Turkish Foreign Policy in the year 2000 and Beyond: Her
Opening up Policy to Africa." Dis Politika-Foreign Policy: A Quarterly of
the Foreign Policy Institute (Ankara), Vol 25, No: 3-4, 2000, p.116.
Erdal Şafak, "Afrika ile Randevu," Sabah, 19 August 2008.
Semih İdiz, "Afrika'nin Türkiye için artan önemi," Milliyet, 21 August 2008.
"Turkey-Africa Partnership Declaration Issued."
http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=26942 (20 August 2008).
Just before the Turkey-Africa Summit, TASAM organized a Turkish-African CSOs
Forum between 14-16 August 2008 in Istanbul with the participation of 90
NGOs from 45 African countries. When the future of Turkey-Africa relations
was discussed on the first day, three participants from diffent African
countries asked the same question: what would Africa gain from this
partnership? This concern should be taken as a serious one. Author's notes
from the Forum, 14 August 2008, Istanbul.
See the address by H.E. Ali Babacan, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs,
to the group of African countries, New York, 24 July 2008,
August 2008).
"Turkey-Africa Partnership Declaration Issued",
http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=26942 (20 August 2008).
Zaman, 21 August 2008, p.11.
Hakan Fidan and Rahman Nurdun, "Turkey's Role in the Global Development
Assistance Cummunity: the Case of TIKA (Turkish International Cooperation
and Development Agency)," Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Vol
10, No 1, April 2008, p.100.
Mustafa Sahin, "Development Aid in African countries and TIKA" in Common
Strategic Vision Development Project Diplomatic Representatives of Turkey
and African Countries, 3rd Workshop Final Report "Development Aid in African
Countries and Turkish Civil Society Organizations", Oguzhan Kose (ed),
Istanbul, TASAM Yayinlari, Strategic Report No:22, December 2007, p.27.
http://www.tika.gov.tr/TR/Icerik_Detay.ASP?Icerik=1034 (20 August 2008)
"Turkey donates $3.5 Million for Africa, Africa-Turkey Summit to be held
next week," http://allafrica.com/stories/200808130809.html (17 August 2008).
See comments of the African Union Commission Chairperson Alfa Omer Konare,
Zaman, 23 November 2005.

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