Turkey winning hearts, minds in Africa: Experts

Lauding Turkey's Africa approach, South African academic says continent needs partners, not masters

Hassan Isilow   | 13.12.2021
Turkey winning hearts, minds in Africa: Experts FILE PHOTO


Though Turkey may be a new entrant in Africa, it is winning hearts and minds in many countries on the continent because of its sincere approach based on trust, mutual interest, and spirit of partnership, experts have said.

This week, Istanbul will host the third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit on Dec. 17-18, expected to launch a new stage in Turkey's relations with the African Union and countries on that continent, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

"Turkey is thriving in Africa because of its honest dealings with countries on the continent. It has a clean history. Turkey did not colonize Africa," Halim Gencoglu, author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, told Anadolu Agency.

He said Turkey's lack of a colonial legacy on the continent has created trust between Africans and Turks, making it easy for them to do business.

Gencoglu also noted that Turkey has over 40 embassies across the continent and added that it established many state institutes in less than a decade, distributing humanitarian assistance, providing educational scholarships, establishing schools, and supporting developmental projects.

Some of Turkey's well-known state agencies operating on the continent include the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Yunus Emre Institute, Maarif Foundation, and Diyanet Foundation, among others.

Mustafa Mheta, a senior research fellow and head of the Africa Desk at the Johannesburg-based think tank, Media Review Network, said he expects the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit to be a total success as Africans hold in high regard Turkey's approach as a partner in Africa's development.

"Turkey's approach to Africa is completely different from others. It's based on a win-win situation and true partnership," Mheta told Anadolu Agency.

He said Ankara's approach was not based on coercion and manipulation, as has been the case with some Western nations, adding that Turkey's approach was always bound to win.

'Partners, not masters'

"Africa needs partners, not masters," Mheta noted, saying that Turkey's non-interference policy in the internal affairs of African countries was a clear sign of a friend. "It only interferes when asked to."

Another expert believed Turkey would continue to gain ground on the continent due to its respect for Africa.

"The Ottoman Empire bequeathed an honorable legacy to the continent. Turkish people never called the continent the 'Dark Continent,' that is what the Western World did," Safiye Yildiz, a Turkish doctoral student at the University of Cape Town, told Anadolu Agency.

Yildiz said that while colonizers in Africa were separating churches for white and black people, the Ottomans sent Turkish scholars to South Africa to teach people without separating them based on the color of their skin.

She said the history of Turks made them friends of Africans. "Unfortunately, the West still continues to treat Africa as an uncivilized, undeveloped land. Now, they called the omicron variant the South African variant, which is not true at all. Scholars accepted that omicron already existed in Europe before the South African government officially declared it. It isn't fair to close borders to South Africa," she argued.

Turkey-Africa summits

Turkey's envoy to Rwanda, Burcu Cevik, told Anadolu Agency that partnership summits between Turkey and Africa played an important role in evaluating the progress in existing areas of cooperation and in setting a roadmap for furthering the collaboration in possible new areas.

"Increasing the dialogue at the highest level between Turkey and African leaders no doubt paves the way for more cooperation in trade and investments," Cevik said in a virtual interview.

She said Turkey's approach to Africa has always been sincere and based on mutual interest and the spirit of partnership.

"Africa has a great potential and dynamism of its own, and Turkey is glad to collaborate with Africa in the continent's transformation process towards ensuring better lives for its peoples," Cevik said.

The diplomat also noted that the trade volume between Turkey and Rwanda was increasing each year.

Meanwhile, Turkey's envoy to Kenya, Ahmet Cemil Miroglu, told Anadolu Agency his country's approach to Africa was based on transparent and long-term strategic partnerships, which completely matches the founding principles of the African Union.

"Turkey will continue to be in solidarity with the African countries and the African Union," the diplomat said, noting that Turkey and Kenya were working hard to elevate their economic cooperation to a new level.

"We encourage Turkish business circles to invest in Kenya and advance business ties on a ‘win-win’ basis,” he said.​​​​​​​

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