Strengthening Ties in Türkiye-Africa Relations

Türkiye's relations with Africa have been growing steadily over the past 20 years. Türkiye is engaged in strong relationships with the African continent in economic, political, security, cultural, and humanitarian aid fields. Although Türkiye introduced the Africa Action Plan in 1998, relations underwent a significant transformation starting in the early 2000s. In this context, Ankara declared 2005 as the “Year of Africa” and took important steps to develop its relations with African countries. During these years, Türkiye-Africa Cooperation Summits were held, and various agreements were signed with African countries. The First Türkiye-Africa Cooperation Summit held in Istanbul in 2008 marked a turning point in Türkiye's relations with Africa.

Türkiye's Presence in Africa
During this period, Türkiye’s relations with the African Union (AU) also strengthened. Türkiye’s Africa Opening policy gained further momentum in 2009. In this context, Türkiye increased the number of its embassies in Africa. Additionally, Turkish Airlines (THY) expanded its flight network in Africa, strengthening transportation connections between Türkiye and Africa. These developments consolidated Türkiye's presence in Africa and contributed to the deepening of economic, political, security, and cultural relations between the two sides. In 2008, Türkiye was accepted as an observer member of the African Union and signed a strategic partnership agreement with the African Union in 2014.

As of 2024, Türkiye has embassies in 44 African countries. Ankara maintains active diplomatic and economic relations with these countries. Among these, Türkiye’s important strategic partners include South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, and Algeria. Türkiye's presence on the African continent is not limited to embassies. It is also supported by trade, security, and investment agreements, cultural exchange programmes, and humanitarian aid projects.

In recent years, Türkiye has emerged as a significant actor in providing security in Africa. Türkiye's image as an active player in solving the continent’s security problems is further consolidated by its historical non-colonial past under the Ottoman Empire and positive initiatives during the Republican period.

As an important part of NATO, Türkiye stands out with its strong army and increasing production capacity, particularly with technological products such as armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These technological products make Ankara a prominent actor due to the advantages they offer in meeting African countries' security needs in terms of cost and efficiency. In recent years, Türkiye has contributed to public security in African countries through military training bases, participation in peacekeeping missions, and the import of security equipment. In this context, Türkiye strengthens its position as an “actor contributing to security” on the continent.

A Solid Foundation for Turkish-African Relations
Türkiye's development projects carried out through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in African countries make significant contributions in areas such as health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure. Hospitals, schools, and water wells built in Somalia, Sudan, and Niger improve the living standards of local people.

Turkish business investments in Africa in sectors such as energy, construction, and textiles stimulate economic growth in the region and create new employment opportunities. Humanitarian aid activities also enhance Türkiye's image in Africa. Aid provided during the famine crisis in Somalia and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Mogadishu demonstrate Türkiye's commitment to humanitarian aid in Africa. Interviews with local people reflect positive sentiments towards Türkiye, supporting this view.

Diplomatically, Türkiye draws attention with its strong relations with the African Union and cooperation summits. Additionally, Türkiye’s active role in addressing the grain supply issue resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war has strengthened its position among African countries. Both the African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat and the Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Workneh Gebeyehu, appreciated the Grain Corridor Agreement signed in July 2022.

Furthermore, scholarships and educational opportunities provided to African youth through educational and cultural collaborations are important steps in strengthening Turkish-African relations in the long term. In this context, the positive approach of African countries towards Türkiye’s presence is based on solid ground in terms of economic and humanitarian aid as well as diplomatic and cultural cooperation.

Why Are Relations with Africa Important for Türkiye?
Relations with Africa are of great importance for Türkiye for various reasons. First, Africa offers significant economic opportunities for Türkiye with its rapidly growing economies and vast natural resources, according to the World Bank and various United Nations (UN) organizations. Turkish companies benefit from these opportunities by investing in Africa and signing trade agreements.

Second, relations with Africa increase Türkiye’s visibility on the international stage. The African continent has significant voting power in the UN and other international organizations. Türkiye plays a more effective role on international platforms through friendly relations with African countries. For example, Türkiye served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) during the 2009-2010 term. The election for Türkiye’s non-permanent membership in the UNSC was held on October 17, 2008. In this election at the UN General Assembly, Türkiye received votes from 151 out of 192 member countries, becoming a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Of the 51 countries that voted for Türkiye, they were African countries.

Third, relations with Africa reinforce Türkiye’s leadership in humanitarian and development aid. Türkiye is appreciated by the international community for its humanitarian aid projects and development assistance in Africa. For example, Somali writer Asha Hasan Senkayi, known for her work on Türkiye-Somalia relations, stated, “Türkiye has a special place in the heart of Somalia.” This statement from local intellectual circles as well as official authorities shows that Türkiye's policies are appreciated.

In conclusion, the growing importance of Türkiye’s relations with Africa offers great opportunities for both Türkiye and African countries. Collaborations in economic, political, cultural, and humanitarian aid fields allow for mutual benefits. For Türkiye, African countries continue to be important partners with their rapidly growing economies and strategic locations. The sustainable and mutually respectful development of these relations will strengthen Türkiye's position in international politics and contribute to the development of African countries.

This opinion piece was published on May 25, 2024, on the Anadolu Agency website in Turkish under the title "Türkiye – Afrika İlişkilerinde Güçlenen Bağlar."