Referring to the Turkish President’s remarks at the end of the Partnership Summit with Africa, Dr. Ali Hajimohammadi who was speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said: Due to the improvement of the health condition, the population of the African continent is growing and has created a new and good market for the countries.
He added: Geopolitical and economic changes, as well as the abundance of natural resources in Africa, have led to a diversity of actors who are competing for geostrategic presence and positioning on the continent; in such a way that in addition to the previous actors, new actors such as Turkey, India and Brazil have also entered into the African continent. Of course, Turkey, unlike other countries, has taken a relatively systematic and different approach.
The expert on Turkey affairs noted: Given the colonial history of the West, Africa is also looking for new alternatives and relations with other countries, including Turkey.
He described futurism and the multidimensional view as the key concepts of the foreign policy of Justice and Development Party (AKP), adding: Turkey’s relations with North African countries are not new. They are part of the Ottoman civilization and Turkey has returned to the cultural-civilizational spheres of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, Mr. Erdogan’s specific ambitions must be taken into account, as he intends to have wide-ranging and diversified economic relations with Africa in a situation that the country’s economy is fragile.
Saying that Turkey’s relationship with Africa is based on three pillars: economic, expansion of diplomatic missions, and humanitarian aid, he said: Contrary to Western trends on the African continent, Turkey uses its smart soft power tools in Africa. In most cases, Turkey also has participatory security approaches on its agenda.
Hajimohammadi explained: Apart from direct intervention in Libya, which will be to the detriment of Turkey on the African continent, most of the country’s security approaches in Africa have been participatory. In addition, Ankara has come to realize that the principle of equal participation and mutual benefit is the main driver of Turkey’s relations with Africa and can be a driving element of its influence in that continent.
Saying that Turkey is pursuing cultural and political influence in Africa in addition to its economic interests, he added: Verbal actions that Mr. Erdogan had in his recent meetings with African countries protesting against the dominant and one-sided international system, were supported by the African leaders and their nations, because they are completely disgusted with the hypocritical and colonialist policies of the Western countries.
The university professor continued: Erdogan, saying that the world is bigger than five (countries), is seeking a common language and a new discourse on global and regional developments in Africa, and a strong voice for strengthening its foreign relations democratically with the entire continent.
The analyst of Turkish affairs pointed to the widespread presence of Turkish cultural institutions in Africa and said the Education Foundation and the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TICA) have an active presence in 25 African countries, adding: There are several foundations that work in different fields of culture and student affairs and in different ways in Africa, and one of those foundations teaches the Istanbul language in 50 African countries. These are very important points.
Referring to the role of the Turkish TV serials in creating a positive capacity and image of that country in Africa, Hajimohammadi added: The common goal of all such foundations and the joint interaction of scientific and cultural institutions and various activities is to educate the young African generation who know Turkish language and in fact, Turkey’s most strategic investment in Africa is the younger generation, which will be the driving force behind Africa’s relations with Turkey in the future.
He added that since 2009, Turkey has expanded its embassies in Africa with an aim of increasing them to about 50 embassies. It recently opened its 44th embassy in Guinea-Bissau. This level of presence can help advance Turkey’s interests in Africa. It has 19 military attaché in the African continent and is steadily increasing its memoranda of understanding in the field of military-security training and the sale of military equipment.
The expert on Turkey affairs, noting that Turkey’s largest foreign military training center is located in Somalia, added: Turkey has 61 flight destinations in Africa. Turkish Airlines is not just an institution or an airline, but a tool to advance Turkey’s strategy to penetrate and expand ties with African countries. Turkey recently signed a major contract with Tanzania to build and equip its railways.
Emphasizing that Turkey seeks to establish systematic and strategic relations in Africa, Hajimohammadi referred to the competition of that country with countries that had a long history of presence in the continent, and continued: Turkey in that region must compete with France and will have extensive differences, especially in the security-military fields. It will also compete with Russia, which has the largest arms sales in Africa. Turkey will compete fiercely with India, and perhaps in the future with Brazil, economically rather than militarily.
He stressed: Despite the shaky domestic economy, the cultural, civilizational and linguistic background of Turkey which is a Muslim country and its different and effective proclaimed policy and actions will make it better able to play a leading role in competitive areas in Africa. Such superiority will also help solve Turkey’s economic problems. Although, for various reasons, conditions were not provided for Turkey’s favorable presence and influence in the Middle East, there seems to be a way for Turkey to have a presence and expand relations in Africa.
The expert on Turkey affairs considered the intervention in the internal affairs of the countries as a big challenge facing Turkey and said that the French welcome such intervention of Turkey in order to present a negative image of Turkey to the African countries and nations. If Turkey does not follow the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, it may challenge all its achievements and goals in Africa.