Turkey wins over Africa
By Hassan Isilow
Johannesburg: The Turkish government is steadily wining hearts of Africans by providing humanitarian aid, education and the construction of religious institutions. Last year, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan surprised many when he flew with his family to Mogadishu in a quick response to the famine. Many international leaders admired his courage and approach to the Somali humanitarian crisis.
After evaluating the impact of famine, Erdogan made arrangements with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which made available $350 million for relief efforts in Somalia. Many NGO’s from Turkey also came into the Horn of Africa country to provide much needed relief and health care for thousands Somalis trapped in famine.
Somalis were overwhelmed by Turkey’s intervention; and many prayed for the country’s success. But this was just the beginning of a new relationship. In September 2011, Turkey again surprised Somalia by offering hundreds of scholarships to students to go and study in Turkey. Another surprise came last month, when a Turkish Airline made its first landing at Mogadishu airport, making it the first time in 20 years that a major commercial airline landed in the war torn country.
But Turkey’s interest is not limited only to Somalia, but other African countries are also included where it has a number of trade and development projects in place.
So what does Turkey aim to achieve in its relationship with Africa? According to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his country has traditionally maintained good relations with the African continent.
“In the context of our policy of opening up to Africa initiated in 1998, we are determined to improve and develop our political, economic, commercial, and cultural interaction with the African countries,” a statement posted on the website of Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs reads.
Turkey said its foreign policy towards Africa is not only based on economic and trade objectives, but also incorporates a comprehensive approach which includes development of Africa through technical and project assistance in the fields such as fight against diseases, agricultural development, irrigation, energy, education and regular flow of humanitarian aid.
On a different note, the 10th African Union Summit, which sat in January 2008 declared Turkey as a strategic partner for the continent. Turkey has been providing aid to different parts of the continent since 1998, through its Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) whose program coordination office for Africa was opened in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in 2005 and later in Khartoum and Dakar in the years 2006- 2007 respectively.
According to the Turkish foreign affairs ministry, TIKA offices support development projects in various African regions. Turkey is also currently providing personnel and contributing financially to six of the existing eight UN missions in Africa. In this context, Turkey co-chaired with Egypt an “International Donor’s Conference for the Reconstruction and Development of Darfur” in Cairo, on 21 March 2010. During the Conference, Turkey announced a pledge of around $ 65 to $ 70 million of humanitarian assistance mainly in health, agriculture and education sectors.
While in May 2010 Turkey hosted the Istanbul Somalia Conference organized within the UN framework. The Conference provided an important support for the Djibouti Peace Process and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG). The Istanbul Declaration adopted during the Conference constitutes a road map for the settlement of the Somali issue.
Turkey also announced recently that it had decided to open 15 new embassies in the following African countries – Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, Mali, Madagascar, Uganda, Niger, Chad, Tanzania, Mozambique, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Zambia. Turkey currently has 20 embassies in Africa of which 15 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, Turkish businessmen and religious organizations have also started building mosques, schools and hospitals on the continent. Most notably, in Johannesburg a 74 year old Turkish businessman, Ali Katircioglu, built a spectacular mosque which has become a landmark in the Midrand area. According to site project manager, Orhan Celik, the mosque was built on a similar plan as the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey, which is currently a Unesco World Heritage Site. The mosque has already become a centre of attraction around Midrand area in Johannesburg. “On Sundays we receive about 500 visitors who come to tour our Mosque,” Orhan said. The mosque also has a school, clinic and shops within its compound.
Turkish owned schools are also doing well in Africa. An example is Sama High school in Mayfair, Johannesburg which has consistently produced A-grades in its matric results.
Many developed countries could now be envious of Turkey’s new found position in Africa, but the reality remains that Turkey has steadily won hearts in Africa.
Republished by the South African Foriegn Policy Intiative (SAFPI) http://www.safpi.org/news/article/2012/turkey-wins-over-africa