For more than a decade, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has devoted a lot of his time to cultivating friendly relations with African countries, and his 2020 tour to the continent is part of that long-standing approach.
As political instability and violence destabilised much of the Middle East and North Africa in recent years, it became important for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reassess the country's place in the fast-changing world.
As part of a plan to look beyond the country’s traditional allies within NATO, Ankara has been focusing on building strong ties with leaders of different African countries, including Algeria, Senegal and Gambia.
Although Erdogan’s 2020 Africa tour centres on the Libya crisis, it also aims to give a boost to Turkey’s economic cooperation with West African countries.
Following the meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Erdogan said: “The Libyan crisis would not be resolved through military means.
“We are in intense negotiations with the countries of the region and with international actors to secure the ceasefire and facilitate the return to political dialogue in Libya,” Erdogan told reporters.
Ankara and Moscow led efforts to broker a truce in Berlin with a conference between the two sides and the help of their international backers. But talks for a permanent ceasefire ended without an agreement after warlord Khalifa Haftar left the Moscow meeting without signing the deal.
As the Libyan conflict marks its ninth year, it deepened further last year when warlord Haftar and his militias launched an assault to seize Tripoli, the base of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
While Haftar forces are backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russian mercenaries, Turkey backs Fayez al Sarraj’s internationally-recognised GNA.
In line with Erdogan, Algerian President Tebboune said he is “in complete agreement” with Erdogan on the need to “follow what was decided in Berlin”, which aimed to bring a permanent ceasefire in Libya.
“We are working together for peace through daily and precise monitoring of all developments on the ground,” he said.
Algeria stepped up its efforts in trying to turn the tide of chaos taking place in Libya, with which it shares a 1,000km border. The newly-elected president recently gathered high-level officials from neighbours, Egypt, Chad, Tunisia, Niger and Sudan to discuss the conflict.
Booming economic cooperation
The economic cooperation between Turkey and Algeria is booming.
Since 2017, Turkey has replaced Algeria’s former colonial power France as the top foreign investor in the country with nearly 1,000 Turkish businesses flourishing in the North African giant.
Algerian-Turkish trade at the end of 2019 exceeded $4 billion, as two countries eye a trading volume of $5 billion.
During their latest meeting on Erdogan’s Africa tour, the Turkish president and his Algerian counterpart signed an agreement to establish the Turkey-Algeria high-level cooperation council.
There will also be Turkey-Algeria business forum taking place in order to boost economic cooperation between two countries in the fields of “industry, tourism, agriculture and renewable energy”.
The Gambia and Senegal
After Algeria, the second leg of Erdogan’s tour will be the Gambia. The visit will lay a foundation in Turkey-Gambia relations and it will be the first-ever official presidential visit from Turkey to the tiny West African country.
The Gambia will be the 28th country in the 49 visits to Africa that Erdogan has held during his terms as prime minister and president.
The final stop on the tour will be Senegal which Erdogan visited in both 2013 and 2016.
Since the 2010s, the relations between Turkey and Senegal, a leading country in Francophone Africa, have been constantly growing.
The country’s landmark projects, the Abdou Diouf de Diamniado International Conference Center and Dakar’s new Blaise Diagne International Airport were constructed by Turkish companies.
The bilateral trade volume between the two countries has risen to $400 million in 2018 from $160 million in 2016.
Apart from a high-level business delegation, Erdogan is joined by key aides including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Technology and Industry Minister Mustafa Varank, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, head of the National Intelligence Organisation Hakan Fidan, Turkey's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin.
From Morocco and Ethiopia to Nigeria and South Africa, Turks during the Ottoman era built strong relations with various emirs, kingdoms and communities across the continent.
However, its contemporary ties were jump-started when the Turkish government declared 1998 as the “Africa opening year”.
Turkey-Africa relations have further developed following coordinated “opening to Africa” initiatives undertaken by successive AK Party-led governments since 2002. These efforts have transformed bilateral relations into strategic partnerships involving diplomacy, trade, development and state-building with a humanitarian aspect and a focus on human development.
The engagements have helped facilitate the growth of bilateral trade and business links and led to mutual economic improvements.
These multidimensional “win-win” partnership realms are expected to strengthen Turkey-Africa cooperation and establish lasting relationships between Turkey and African countries.