- The summit is expected to cover Peace, security, and governance; Trade, investment, and industry; Education, STI skills, youth and women’s Development; Infrastructure development and agriculture; and Promoting resilient health systems.
- The volume of bilateral trade between Turkey and Africa rose from $5.4bn in 2003 to $25.3bn in 2020, and Turkish foreign direct investment in the continent grew from $100m to $6.5bn.
- The most important sector is the defense sector because this is a new asset especially drones, and a host of African leaders looking to buy military equipment at cheaper prices.
- Signing free trade agreements and agreements to reciprocally strengthen protect investments, cooperation and knowledge-sharing in the fields of industrialisation, agriculture, construction, textiles and health.
The Turkish and African leaders will come together for the three-day Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit will be held between Dec 17-18 in Istanbul Congress Center, which comes fast on the heels of a top-level business forum in October that focuses on investment and trade. The new round of meetings and talks to weigh in on further developing bilateral relations – with defense ties under the spotlight – as both sides are due to meet at a major gathering in Istanbul.
According to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) the summit, which will be hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is expected to launch a new stage in Turkey’s relations with the African Union and African countries. The date of the long-awaited event has been postponed twice, was announced by Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu during a visit to Turkey by Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, in late September. Çavusoglu said that Turkey’s approach to Africa is based on the principle of “African solutions to Africa’s problems”.
“We aim to support Africa’s development efforts and increase commercial, cultural and human relations between us, Turkey had been a strategic partner of the African Union (AU) since 2008.”
The summit will take place under the theme “Enhanced Partnership for Common Development and Prosperity”.
According to Daily Sabah leaders and top ministers from 39 countries – including 13 presidents – have confirmed their attendance, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set to deliver a speech on Saturday, including Félix Tshisekedi, current chair of the African Union, Senegal’s Macky Sall, Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, representing Ecowas, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On 17 December, reports Jeune Afrique, President Erdoğan and his wife Emine will give a dinner in honor of their guests at the Dolmabahçe Palace, while the main business of the summit will take place the following day. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Albert Muchanga, AU commissioner for economic development, trade, industry and mining (ETIM) and Josefa Leonel Correia, commissioner for agriculture, rural development, blue economy and sustainable environment (ARBE) and other high officials from AU member states will also be in attendance at the summit.
The Third Turkey-Africa Summit agenda
Meetings between senior officials will begin on 16 December. The summit agenda “will include reviewing the cooperation between Turkey and African countries since the Second Summit and drawing a framework for the partnership process in the period ahead,” according to 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit Coordinator Ambassador Can İncesu.
“The Third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit will provide guidelines for our cooperation with Africa for the next 5-year period. Part of the projects to be decided in the Summit will concern our private sector directly.”
According to the AU, the Summit is expected to adopt a “Turkey-Africa Partnership Joint Action Plan 2021-2026″ containing concrete actions to be implemented jointly by Turkey, the AU, and its Member States. The summit is expected to cover the following areas:
- Peace, security and governance;
- Trade, investment and industry;
- Education, STI skills, youth and women’s Development;
- Infrastructure development and agriculture; and
- Promoting resilient health systems.
It is expected that the summit will adopt capacity building training, including the increase of judicial cooperation and relations between judicial institutions, including training cooperation and support, particularly in relation to terrorist offenses, as well as security cooperation agreements to increase training cooperation on combating drug-related crimes, and vocational and technical education.
A parallel session on health will take place on the margins of the summit on 17 December under the theme “Mobilising Potentials for African Health Needs in the Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Era” with ministers of health and heads of delegation from Africa and Turkish minister of health Fahrettin Koca in attendance.
The Growing Turkey footprint on the Continent
Ankara’s presence has grown rapidly on the continent under President Erdoğan, who has visited more African countries than any other African leader. The volume of bilateral trade between Turkey and Africa rose from $5.4bn in 2003 to $25.3bn in 2020. Over the same period, Turkish foreign direct investment in the continent grew from $100m to $6.5bn, and Turkish companies have become increasingly present across Africa.
The main sectors for Turkish trade and investment are construction, steel, and cement, followed by textiles, household goods, and electronic devices. South Africa is Turkey’s largest trading partner on the continent, with bilateral trade of $1.3bn in 2019, but Ethiopia, where Turkish firms have more than 20,000 employees, has drawn nearly a third of Turkey’s investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
What began with economic outreach has progressed into a complex Africa policy encompassing business, aid, diplomacy, culture, and military support. Turkish Airlines, the country’s national carrier, which only flew to North Africa in 2003, now flies to 51 destinations in 33 African countries, 26 of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In the educational field, Turkey has provided more than 14,000 African students graduate, post-graduate and doctorate scholarships since 1992, and runs 175 schools on the continent. Security has also been a focus. Ankara has signed a string of arms deals with African countries. Kenya recently spent $73m on armoured vehicles from Katmerciler, an Izmir-based manufacturer.
The number of Turkish embassies in Africa has risen from 12 in 2002 to the current figure of 43, with a mission soon to open in Guinea-Bissau. Meanwhile, the number of African embassies in Ankara rose from 10 in 2008 to 37 in 2021, according to the MFA.
The Rise Interest of Turkish weaponry
The next phase of this fast-blossoming relationship includes security, experts say, with a host of African leaders looking to buy military equipment at cheaper prices with fewer preconditions.
On his most recent trip to Africa, President Erdoğan discussed the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and armored carriers to Angola and defense manufacturing in Nigeria, as well as signing a joint declaration with the presidents of signing a joint declaration with Presidents of Togo, Burkina Faso and Liberia reinforcing cooperation in the fight against terror organizations, as reported by POREG.
Ankara already has a military base in Morocco and Tunisia, and Somalia. Turkish personnel train Somali government soldiers and Turkey’s largest overseas base is situated near Mogadishu. Turkey has also provided military equipment and troops to the UN-recognised government in Libya in its conflict with the Tripoli-based forces of Khalifa Haftar, in a move that has caused tensions with Egypt (see below).
Turkey in August also reportedly signed a military cooperation pledge with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been embroiled in a war with Tigrayan rebels for the past year. And both Morocco and Tunisia reportedly took their first delivery of Turkish combat drones in September.
“The most important sector is the defense sector because this is a new asset. Turkey has pushed this sector a lot, especially drones,” Federico Donelli, an international relations researcher at the University of Genoa, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Developed by prominent drone magnate Baykar, the Bayraktar TB2 model is particularly in high demand after it was credited for swinging the fate of conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh in the past few years, putting the company in the spotlight and transforming it into a major manufacturer and exporter. The firm has now signed export deals with some 13 countries including a joint production deal with Ukraine, as its products help reshape the way modern wars are fought. Analysts say the scale of Turkey’s drone program places it with the world’s top four producers – the United States, Israel, and China.
“Everywhere I go in Africa, everyone asks about UAVs,” Erdoğan said after a visit to Angola, Nigeria, and Togo in October.
Some of the closest scrutinies have focused on Turkey’s ties with Ethiopia, where the Western media outlet had claimed that Turkey sent an undisclosed number of combat drones in support of Abiy’s campaign earlier this year and that Ankara, responding to international pressure, had halted the sales.
“Ethiopia can buy these drones from whoever they want,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson
Official Turkish data does not break down the details of military sales to individual countries, only giving the total sales amount for each month. These have soared spectacularly in the past year. Turkish defense and aviation exports to Ethiopia rose to $94.6 million (TL 1.3 billion) between January and November from around $235,000 in the same period last year, according to figures published by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM). Sales to Angola, Chad, and Morocco experienced similar jumps.
Criticism of Western approach to Africa
In its dealings with Africa Turkey has presented itself as a friend of the continent free of the exploitative and racist baggage of former colonial powers. “We are here on the continent with a win-win strategy,” the Turkish ambassador to South Africa, Elif Comoglu Ulgen, told African Business in February.
In October 2021, President Erdoğan undertook a tour of three African countries, meeting leaders and investors in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. “As Turkey, we reject Western-centred Orientalist approaches to the African continent. We embrace the peoples of the African continent without discrimination,” he said in a speech to the Angolan parliament.
Turkey has also been critical of the West over its failure to give Africa greater support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Togo, President Erdoğan announced that Turkey would be donating Covid-19 vaccines to the region, a promise that was followed up on 7 December with the delivery of vaccines to Togo and Burkina Faso by the Organisation of Turkic States. According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, a third of the 600,000 doses delivered were Sinovac jabs allocated by Turkey. President Erdoğan also took up the theme at October’s Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum (see below).
“Turkey is proud to have contributed to African countries in their fight against the novel coronavirus with Turkish-made respirators, masks and overalls,”
“The peoples of Africa were unfortunately left to their fate in the face of the virus while Western developed countries were engaged in mask wars. The essence of our relations with Africa is sincerity, brotherhood and solidarity.”
Evolution of the Turkey-Africa summits
In 1998 a coalition government led by Mesut Yilmaz began to redefine Turkey’s international role, moving it away from its status as an ally of the West towards a more active global presence but it was after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power that the relationship really began to change.
2005 was designated “The Year of Africa” and in 2008 Turkey became a strategic partner of the AU. Previous editions of the partnership summit were held in 2008 and 2014, in Istanbul and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, respectively.
The 2008 summit formalized the strategic partnership between Turkey and the AU and adopted compacts that determined a wide range of primary areas for cooperation, ranging from intergovernmental cooperation, trade, and investment to security and educational ties.
The 2014 summit adopted the Malabo Declaration as a basis for strengthening partnership and cooperation between Turkey and Africa and led to a Joint Implementation Plan for 2015-19. The plan was reviewed at a meeting of senior officials in March 2015 and a list of priority projects was drawn up.
In a 2018 ministerial review conference held in Istanbul, it was agreed to develop concrete projects, in line with Agenda 2063. According to the MFA, projects have been implemented in the fields of trade and investment, peace and security, education and culture, youth empowerment and technology transfer, rural economy and agriculture, energy and transportation.
In preparation for the coming summit, Turkey has submitted to the AU a report on Turkish-African cooperation between 2015 and 2020 and a five-year action plan for the coming period. The AU website provides further details of multilateral cooperation between Turkey and Africa in recent years.
Turkey aims to double bilateral trade with Africa
Three editions of the Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum have also taken place, with the most recent in Istanbul on 21-22 October 2021. The theme of the forum was “Deepening Turkey-Africa Partnership: Trade, Investment, Technology and Logistics”.
According to the MFA, it was attended by 2,500 participants from Turkey and 71 countries (including 46 African countries), with 43 high-level speakers, 22 ministers, four deputy ministers and representatives of African regional economic communities among the participants. President Erdoğan announced that Turkey aims to double its bilateral trade volume with Africa to $50bn.
The pledge was echoed by the chairman of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK), Nail Olpak, who said: “Signing free trade agreements, agreements to reciprocally strengthen and protect investments, besides cooperation and knowledge-sharing in the fields of industrialisation, agriculture, construction, textiles and health, are our priorities.”
Speaking to Turkish state broadcaster TRT at the forum, Fathi Akbullut, the president of the Turkish-African Business Association said that people had realized that the partnership between Turkey and Africa was not a short-term thing.
“It is actually something the Turkish government is looking to in the long run. Realizing this, a lot of countries that are looking for foreign direct investment (FDI) are looking into Turkey to see how they can take this cooperation to the next level,” he told the broadcaster. The promotion of public-private partnerships was highlighted at the forum as a critical element in the development efforts of both Africa and Turkey.
“Encouraging and facilitating private sector exploitation of investment and business opportunities is… a key objective of the forum, as is increasing interaction between the business communities of Turkey and Africa,” according to the AU.
‘Without Africa, there cannot be a prosperous world’
“We want to develop together. We want to support [African countries] and be on their side.”
“Everyone will one day realise that without Africa, there cannot be a prosperous world. That’s why we all need to move forward, hand in hand with Africa.”
Referring to the upcoming summit, she said: “It will be an extremely important event. We hope to welcome many heads of state.” The 2014 summit in Malabo was attended by Mauritania, Ethiopia, Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Libya, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt, with most of these countries represented by their head of state, although President Sisi of Egypt did not come; 32 other countries attended as observers.