Assessing Turkey’s relationship with Africa
Turkey plans to open its largest overseas military facility in Africa, a move that signals Africa’s increasing importance to the government. CNBC Africa’s Esther Awoniyi caught up with Kani Torun, Deputy Chairman of the Foreign affairs committee at the Grand National Assembly, Turkey for an update on Turkey’s foreign policy with Africa.
Since 2005 when Turkey developed a key interest in Africa, economists and analysts expressed different views on Turkey’s interest in Africa particularly Sub Saharan Africa which is the part of the continent we’ll focus on today. So let me start by asking, what are Turkeys interests in Africa particularly Sub Saharan Africa?
First of all, we are not new in Africa. Historically, Turkey was actually in Africa, however since 2002 we have increased our relationship with Africa. Our main aim is to increase our diplomatic relationship, increase development and humanitarian activities and to increase business links in Africa. This is because Africa is the growing economies in the world. It is a very fast growing continent. Many countries have an eye on Africa but Turkey’s approach is different. Our approach is mainly humanitarian development as well as business. And in business we think that is the best way to create a win win situation.
Help us understand Turkey’s relationship with Somalia despite the African country not being one of the most economically vibrant on the continent?
Somalia was in trouble with a civil war between 1991 and 2011. That is 20 years of civil war. The country was destroyed and the international community abandoned Somalia for a long time. In 2011 there was a big famine, and around 200,000 people died as a result. Turkey’s approach to the country is primarily humanitarian. In the beginning we sparked off a humanitarian missions as well as opened nan embassy to organise all these activities. At the time I was appointed as the Turkish Ambassador to Somalia and I actually coordinated all Turkish efforts in Somalia between 2011 and 2014. In that time our main aim was not economic, it was first of all that they were our brothers and sisters in need of help. Then, there was development and then of course there were joint business activities. Some private investors from Turkey came to Mogadishu and invested because of the peace that came into Somalia which is natural and the government of Turkey is in this to show Africa that this is our approach and our example. Somalia is the prime example of Turkish operations in Africa.
As you said, Turkey has always had an interest in Africa, but we’ve seen renewed interest as far back as 2005, are you saying that this has nothing to do with Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with the likes of Egypt and the EU?
Actually, it is not related because the policies started since 2005 and as you know the Somalian crisis happened in 2011. The recent events started last year. It is nothin to do with Turkey’s efforts for example if you’re talking about the military base it was a long established relationship between two armies and then Turkey was fighting for a stable Somalia. They needed to have a strong stable army. We trained Somalian officers, non commissioning officers and foot soldiers to create a disciplined army to get the country together, and help in the fight against terrorism which has been very effective in East Africa.