Africa

EXCLUSIVE - 'Turkiye-Africa diplomatic relations gained momentum after 2002'

"Turkiye has very special partnership model with Africa" says Ambassador Nur Sagman, assessing Turkiye's relationship with Africa

Zeliha Eliaçık, Metin Erol   | 24.05.2022
EXCLUSIVE - 'Turkiye-Africa diplomatic relations gained momentum after 2002'

ISTANBUL

Director General of the Turkish Foreign Ministry of West and Central Africa and Ambassador Nur Sagman emphasized Turkiye's multidimensional cooperation with African countries, saying: "As part of Turkiye's win-win relationships with Africa, natural resources owned by the continent should be utilized for the sake of Africans."​​​​​​​

Sagman evaluated Turkiye-Africa relations for Anadolu Agency's exclusive work on Africa that the agency has been preparing for Africa Day.

Anadolu Agency: How much of what we know about Africa is true?

Nur Sagman: We are limiting Africa to North Africa and don't really know well about sub-Saharan Africa. We generally have a knowledge about South Africa. There are some misconceptions about Africa. There are also many who regard Africa as a single country. However, Africa is a continent with 54 countries, a population of 1.2 billion and incredible potential. There are poverty, conflicts, and instabilities, but where on earth do they not exist? There is an ongoing war in Ukraine today. It is incorrect to confine Africa to only these negative characteristics. Africa has enormous potential in terms of both human power (in terms of population) and agricultural fields that can be planted. I don't even mention the natural resources. They say that "Africa is the continent of the future," but Africa is also the continent of today's world. Unfortunately, Africa is viewed as a continent beset by historical facts and problems arising from its history.

AA: Relations between Turkiye and Africa have a long history. While Turkiye had only 12 embassies in Africa in 2002, it has 43 embassies today. How have Turkiye-Africa relations changed in the last 20 years?

Sagman: Turkiye has a long history of relations with Africa, but diplomatically, there has been an increase in momentum since 2002. Today, Turkiye has 43 embassies in Africa. This number will rise to 44 soon. However, we should not approach this in a one-sided manner. Africa has the same sentiment. Now, 37 African countries have embassies in Turkiye. This number will increase to 38 soon; another embassy will be opened in Togo. Of course, we should not consider these events solely from a diplomatic standpoint. Turkiye has various corporations and institutions on the African continent, including the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Turkiye's Maarif Foundation, Turkish Red Crescent, Anadolu Agency, and Turkish Airlines (THY), the country's flag carrier. Turkiye is in the African continent with its heart. Turkiye works as a team. We open embassies there, followed by our consultancies and embassies' economic and commercial affairs offices. Flights of THY, schools of Maarif Foundation, and scholarships by the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) are following those. We have provided scholarships to 14,000 students from Africa to date. I don't even point out the private sector.

AA: What kind of strategic cooperation is there between Turkiye and African countries?

Sagman: As you know, Turkiye has been designated as a strategic partner by the African Union (AU). Along with bilateral cooperation, Turkiye has substantial corporate cooperation with African countries. We recently held the Africa Partnership Summit. Despite the pandemic conditions, there was a large turnout. A total of 16 heads of state and government, a hundred ministers -- 25 of them are foreign ministers -- have arrived. African countries were particularly interested. This clarified our business relationships and strategic alliance. At the summit, some action plans and documents were received. We have completed the agenda for what will be accomplished through 2026. In every industry, we have strategic connections with African countries. These types of partnerships and cooperation are continuing at both the state and AU levels.

AA: Can we say that particular fields and countries came to the forefront when we look at the strategic cooperation between Turkiye and the African continent?

Sagman: If it had been a couple of years ago, I would have approved this. Of course, the types of cooperation vary according to the needs of different regions and countries. Turkiye conducts relations and partnerships on this ground, whatever its African partners need. Turkiye is currently engaging with every African country. Turkiye believes that African resources should be used to benefit Africans in a win-win situation, and is working to achieve this goal through cooperation and partnerships.

AA: There is not only Turkiye in Africa. What distinguishes Turkiye from other players?

Sagman: Turkiye has developed a unique relationship strategy with Africa. Because in bilateral partnerships, Turkiye prioritizes equality, reciprocal respect, transparency, and intimacy. Africans are well aware of this. We're getting excellent outcomes from this. "What is your secret agenda about your relations with Africa?" several countries ask Turkiye. There is no such thing as a hidden agenda, believe me. It is purely a collaborative effort. Working together, we are growing and rising together. Turkiye never interferes in African countries' internal issues. It is always on the side of the people. There have been coups in certain African countries, and sanctions have been imposed in response. Turkiye is simply trying to stand with the people without interfering with these countries' domestic affairs. Turkiye has a successful partnership with African countries that is based on mutual benefit.

AA: In what ways do Turkiye-African ties demonstrate a "win-win partnership model"?

Sagman: Turkiye provides significant development investment assistance to African countries. Turkiye has supplied around $2.2 billion in development assistance over the last 14 years, but there is also a significant amount of trade between Turkiye and African countries. This trade volume benefits both Turkiye and African countries. A transaction volume of $24.5 billion was reached last year. Our goal is $50 billion. Furthermore, Turkish companies serve as conductors in African countries. Turkish enterprises are currently involved in almost 1,700 projects across the continent. Unfortunately, the media portrays Turkiye as always lending a helping hand in relations with Africa. Only Turkiye's humanitarian actions have been highlighted. True, Turkiye has done a lot of good work in terms of humanitarian help, but Turkiye-Africa relations are much more than that. Relations between Turkiye and Africa are multifaceted. Within this relation network, there is so much possibility that everyone benefits. Due to recent events, there has been a significant food crisis. Believe me, the solution to this problem comes from Africa.

AA: What is the worldwide public's perception of Turkiye's activities in Africa?

Sagman: Everyone is curious about Turkiye's model. Many Western countries want to consult us about Africa. Meetings are arranged to learn more about Turkiye's activities in Africa. The general director of France for Africa came to Ankara at the beginning of this year, and we had a meeting together. We held consultations with Portugal. The EU is also conducting consultations about the issue. Turkiye's Africa model has received a lot of attention. We get questions like "What does Turkiye do in Africa?" but now, they've figured out that Turkiye is a global player. Of course, we are in Africa because Africa wants us and we want Africa.

AA: Is Turkiye's Africa model proving to be a success?

Sagman: Sure. Consider this: our president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is one of the most frequent visitors as a leader to Africa from outside the continent. Also, our foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, is a minister who receives his African counterparts the most. We welcomed 38 envoys from Africa in 2021, when the pandemic was at its peak. There is constant mobility. African countries want to come, and we want to go there as well. Our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo in February 2022. These visits make a significant contribution to the building of bilateral ties. Finally, as you are aware, the Antalya Diplomacy Forum was held twice: once last year and again in March of this year. In both years, the most crowded envoys came from Africa to the Antalya Diplomacy Forum. Isn't it a resounding success?

*Translated by Merve Berker in Ankara

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