Turkey significantly increases its presence in Africa over recent 20 years
By Necdet Burak Ozyurt
Turkey's involvement in Africa has grown dramatically over the last 20 years in areas such as diplomacy, trade, humanitarian aid, education, culture, and business, Yeni Shafak daily reports.
Throughout this period, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid 53 visits to 32 African countries, trade volume between the parties grew sixfold, the number of Turkish embassies increased to 43 and the flight destinations of Turkish Airlines reached 61 in 40 countries.
Africa is a continent made up of 54 nations with a diverse range of ethnic groups, languages, religions, cultures, and traditions. The inhabitants of these lands, whose resources have been colonized by the West for centuries and whose people have been enslaved, now want to stand on their own feet, make their own decisions, and have a prosperous life.
The significance Turkey places on Africa may be seen in President Erdogan's statement during his visit to Mauritania in 2018: "We want to walk together with Africa, while the new world order is being built”.
Although Turkey's first serious step towards Africa was the “The Action Plan for opening up to Africa" prepared in 1998, the real activity started in 2003 with the "Strategy for the Development of Economic Relations with African Countries".
As a result of this effort, 2005 was declared the "Year of Africa", and Ankara was admitted as an observer member to the African Union in the same year, and was declared a “Strategic Partner” in 2008. Moreover, the 1st Turkish-African Cooperation Summit was held in 2008, contacts were made with the presidents and ministers, who came to Istanbul from Africa. The second of Ankara's African summits was held in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, in 2014, while the third summit was organized in Istanbul in December 2021.
Erdogan became the first foreign statesman, who visited Africa the most during his tenure as prime minister. The Turkish president, who has made 53 visits to 32 African countries to date, is working hard to strengthen Turkey's political and economic ties with Africa. Erdogan made his first visit to the continent in 2004, in Cairo, Egypt, and later to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau on February 20-23, 2022. According to reports, the trips play an essential role in increasing African people's affection for Turkey.
Although Turkey's African strategy has long been based on "Soft Power" elements, the military sector has only lately been included in the relationship. Ankara exported defense items worth $288 million to Africa in 2021, a six-fold increase over the previous year, thanks to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sales.
Turkey's trade volume with Africa was roughly $5.4 billion in 2003, but this amount has already surpassed $30 billion in 2021, placing it among the top 10 exporting nations to the continent.
The market value of Turkey's investments in Africa hit 6 billion dollars in 2021, after an 18-year period, while the size of projects performed by Turkish contractors throughout the continent exceeded 77 billion dollars.
The increasing trade volume, growing diplomatic mission network, cultural diplomacy initiatives, and Turkey's role in air transportation connecting the continent to the rest of the world all indicate that ties will continue to expand in the long run.
Erdogan’s visit to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital on August 19, 2011, was one of the important steps taken toward the continent by Turkey. The visit was made when the local population was trying to get rid of the civil war and terror whirlpool while struggling with famine and drought.
The establishment of Turkey's biggest embassy in Mogadishu once again demonstrated the significance Turkey places on Somalia and Africa in general.
The aid campaigns launched in Turkey after the visit and Ankara's political, economic, and military efforts to restore Somalia yielded very positive results over time. The direct humanitarian nature of the Turkish aid model is today cited as the main reason for Somalias' sympathy for Turkey.
Turkey is carrying out education and cultural projects in the continent as well. Turkish will be taught as an elective subject in Somalia as part of the Yunus Emre Institute's (YEE) project together with Somalia’s National Education Ministry.
Turkish Education Foundation works with 175 educational institutions in 25 African nations to educate a total of 17,565 students. The Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), which was founded in 2010, provides scholarships to African youth who wish to study at Turkish institutions. Scholarships were awarded to 12,600 students from 54 African nations between 2012 and 2022.
The number of applications submitted from Africa for 2022 has now surpassed 45,000. The Yunus Emre Institute (YEE), which conducts cultural diplomacy efforts on behalf of Turkey overseas, now operates 10 cultural centers in eight African nations, and this number is expected to double by 2022.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is one of the most important pillars of Turkish foreign policy in Africa. The agency aims to improve the daily lives of Africans with its work on health, vocational courses, agriculture, culture, and arts. TIKA established its first office in Ethiopia in 2005 and now has offices in 21 countries throughout the continent.
The growth in the number of flights conducted by Turkish Airlines was one of the most important bridges between Turkey and African countries (THY). The company, which flies to 61 destinations in 40 African countries, works in accordance with Turkish foreign policy aims and makes a substantial contribution to Turkey's African exposure.
While there were just 12 Turkish embassies across the continent in 2005, this number has already risen to 43 so far. African countries, on the other hand, did not remain indifferent to Turkey's interests. The number of African embassies in Ankara rose from 10 at the beginning of 2008 to 37. Moreover, as a result of its diplomatic relations with Africa, Turkey was elected as a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council in 2009 and received the support of 51 of the 53 African member states in the voting.
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