Angola, Togo and Nigeria: these are the three countries that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has crisscrossed over the past few days, to strengthen the Turkish presence there economically, politically and militarily.
A few days before the economic forum and the next Turkey-Africa summit, to be held in Istanbul next December, President Erdogan is promoting a “win-win” partnership for Africans.
Turkey intends to promote relations “on the basis of a win-win egalitarian partnership, within the framework of mutual respect”, assured Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Angola, the first step of his African agenda.
“We in Turkey attach great importance and great value to the close relationship we have with the African continent,” President Erdoğan said Monday evening in front of an audience of Angolan businessmen, according to a released statement by the services of Turkish diplomacy.
“We want to advance these relations on the basis of a win-win equal partnership, within the framework of mutual respect,” he continued.
A little earlier, in a speech to the Angolan parliament broadcast on the Turkish presidency’s website, Erdoğan considered that “the fate of humanity cannot and must not be left at the mercy of a handful of countries who are the victors of World War II ”.
“Ignoring calls for change is an injustice for Africa,” he added, stressing that Turkey bore “no stain” of imperialism or colonialism.
After Angola, the Turkish president took part in a mini summit in Togo where there were his new allies, namely Burkina Faso and Liberia under the leadership of President Faure Gnassingbé whose country inaugurated a new Turkish embassy in the capital Lomé. The President’s African tour will end at the continent’s giant, “Nigeria”.
This tour is closely followed by the other African partners. While Turkey’s African diplomatic agenda is new, its engagement on the continent is growing.
Playing on the sensitive chord of anti-imperialism and the rhetoric of “solidarity and partnership for a common future”, the Turkish leadership team is pushing its pawns, its construction companies and its household appliances. Business as usual but, of course, with mutual respect.
In recent years, we have witnessed a reorientation of a Turkish foreign policy which is more inventive and independent.
In other words: “From the Middle East to Africa to the Caucasus, Turkey’s foreign policy shows much more autonomy and renewed activism. Due to its importance and its geographical position as a crossroads, the country seeks to assert itself as a regional, if not an international power, essential in many sensitive issues.
One of the hallmarks of Ankara’s new foreign policy is its neo-Ottoman dimension, based on the vision of Ahmet Davutoğlu, important diplomatic adviser and then foreign minister when Erdogan was prime minister. This designer of neo-Ottoman diplomacy, in a 2001 book, developed the concept of “strategic depth”.
Main argument of this “vision”: Turkey has neglected its historical, diplomatic and politico-economic links with nearby regions which were once largely Ottoman. Officially, Ankara’s regional approach classifies Egypt in the “Middle East”; Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya forming “North Africa”. But in practice, Egypt is an integral part of the Turkey-Africa partnership.
In the wake of the renewal of South-South international relations which is reflected in the diplomatic offensive of the “super-emerging” China, India, Brazil, not to mention Russia and the Emirates from the Gulf to Africa, Turkey has launched in a diplomatic action combining diplomacy, security and trade.
It is not only a question of wooing the African elites and promoting the establishment of public or private economic interests, but also of ensuring Turkey’s visibility on the continent.
The numerous state visits carried out by the Turkish authorities illustrate the growing role of Africa in Ankara’s planetary ambitions.