Istanbul, Turkey – Turkey aims to deepen economic and military ties with Africa, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech at an important summit of African leaders in Istanbul, and called for a seat representing the continent on the Security Council of ONU.
Heads of state from 16 African countries, as well as more than 102 ministers and representatives from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States are attending the summit in Istanbul.
The third summit of the Turkey-Africa partnership follows a wave of activities by Turkey aimed at strengthening ties with the continent.
In October, Istanbul hosted business leaders and dozens of African state ministers for a summit aimed specifically at increasing trade.
The same month, Erdogan visited Angola, Nigeria and Togo.
“A comma three billion people live on the African continent and it is not represented on the Security Council,” Erdogan said on Saturday.
â€œIt is a huge and flagrant injustice. I am always excited and delighted every time I visit the continent, â€said Erdogan, adding that he has made more than 50 trips to the continent and visited more than 30 countries since 2004.
â€œThis summit testifies to the fact that Turkey is interested in Africa and that Turkey’s interest in Africa is not a temporary interest, it is a sustained commitment. Our African brothers and sisters are showing their interest in better cooperation with Turkey.
Vaccines, drones, increased trade
Erdogan announced that Turkey would share 15 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with African countries over the next few months, adding that it was “a shame for humanity as a whole” that only 6% of the population had been vaccinated so far.
Turkey is also ready to share its counterterrorism expertise and provide military technologies to African countries, he added.
â€œWe understand that security challenges like those of Daesh (ISIL), Boko Haram and al-Shabab are not just about a few countries, but a common challenge. Turkey has advanced technology in defense industry and Turkey has extensive experience in counterterrorism operations. We are ready to offer this feat to our African brothers and sisters.
Turkey has a major military base in Somalia, where it has helped build infrastructure for the government and trained security personnel.
Turkish forces are also present in Libya, where they support a government recognized by the UN, and Turkish armed drones have played an important role in the conflict there.
While details on what kind of military cooperation will emerge from the summit are still unclear, Murat Yigit of Istanbul Business University told Al Jazeera that African leaders have shown clear interest in the defense offers. from Turkey.
“Turkey’s successful breakthroughs in the defense industry in recent years are certainly reflected in its relations with Africa,” Yigit said. â€œThere were plans to improve defense cooperation with countries such as Somalia, Niger and Ethiopia.
â€œIn addition, as we have seen in Libya, Turkish drones will make a great contribution to peace in the region. It is not difficult to predict that in the new period Turkey-Africa cooperation will find new key sectors in the military and commercial fields.
Turkey signed a military cooperation agreement with Ethiopia earlier this year, during a visit to Ankara by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Ethiopia, along with Morocco, is already buying arms from Turkey. In October, the Reuters news agency reported that the two countries were purchasing Bayraktar TB2 drones made in Turkey, which have also been sold to Azerbaijan, Poland and Ukraine.
Bilateral trade between Turkey and African countries has also increased significantly in recent years.
In the first 11 months of 2021, bilateral trade had reached $ 30 billion, Erdogan said on Saturday, and Turkey plans to increase it to more than $ 50 billion in the coming years.
Erdogan added that some 25,000 Africans were employed on the continent by Turkish companies, in projects worth 78 billion dollars, and that more than 14,000 African students had studied in Turkey.
The strengthening of economic cooperation between Turkey and African countries was partly motivated by Turkey’s desire to diversify its trading partners, said Ismail Numan Telci, deputy director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Ankara.
â€œRather than limiting itself to its immediate neighbors, Turkey has spread to wider regions, including Africa, to diversify its strategic commitments. In this regard, Ankara has viewed African countries as equal partners in its foreign policy goals as well as its economic goals, â€Telci said.
African leaders, on the other hand, increasingly sought to find development partners who lie outside historic European power centers with colonial histories on the continent.
â€œIn recent years, however, these countries have increasingly realized their unique potential, not only in terms of economic power, but also diplomatic and military capabilities.
â€œAs a result, these countries have become more open to new regional and world powers, including Turkey, to increase their commitments to defend their interests. “