Heads of state from 16 African nations are in Istanbul for a summit aimed at deepening economic and military ties.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, welcomes African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, left, during the Third Türkiye-Africa Partnership Summit in Istanbul, Türkiye [Emrah Yorulmaz/ Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By   Umar Farooq Published on 18 Dec 2021

Istanbul, Türkiye –  Türkiye aims to deepen economic and military ties in Africa, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks at a major summit of African chiefs in Istanbul, calling for a seat representing the continent on the Security Council of the UN.


Heads of state from 16 African nations, along with more than 102 ministers and representatives from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States are attending the summit in Istanbul.


The Third Türkiye -Africa Partnership Summit follows a flurry of activity by Türkiye aimed at boosting ties on the continent.


In October, business leaders and dozens of ministers from African states were hosted in Istanbul for a summit specifically aimed at increasing trade.


The same month, Erdogan visited Angola, Nigeria, and Togo.


“1.3 billion people live on the African continent and it is not represented in the Security Council,” Erdogan said on Saturday.


“It is a huge and flagrant injustice. I am still excited every time I visit the continent,” Erdogan said, adding that he had made more than 50 trips to the continent and visited more than 30 countries since 2004.


“This summit is a testimony to the fact that Türkiye is interested in Africa and Türkiye ‘s interest in Africa is not a temporary interest, it is a sustained commitment. Our African brothers and sisters are showing that they are interested in better cooperation with Türkiye .”


Vaccines, drones, increased trade

Erdogan announced that Türkiye would share 15 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with African countries in the coming months, adding that it was “a shame for humanity in general” that only 6 percent of the population had been vaccinated so far.


Türkiye is also ready to share its counterterrorism experience and deliver military technology to countries in Africa, he added.


“We understand that security challenges like Daesh (ISIL), Boko Haram, and al-Shabab are not just for a few countries, but are a shared challenge. Türkiye has advanced technology when it comes to the defense industry, and Türkiye has a lot of experience when it comes to anti-terrorist operations. We are ready to offer this skill to our African brothers and sisters.”


Türkiye has a major military base in Somalia, where it has helped build infrastructure for the government and trained security personnel.


Turkish forces also have a presence in Libya, where they support an UN-recognized government, and Turkish armed drones have played a significant role in the conflict there.


While the details of what kind of military cooperation will emerge from the summit are not yet clear, Murat Yigit of the Istanbul University of Commerce told Al Jazeera that African leaders show clear interest in Türkiye’s defense offers.


“The successful breakthroughs that Türkiye has experienced in the defense industry in recent years are effectively reflected in its relations with Africa,” Yigit said. “Defense cooperation with countries like Somalia, Niger, and Ethiopia was expected to improve.


“Furthermore, as seen in Libya, Turkish drones will make great contributions to peace in the region. It is not difficult to predict that in the new period, Türkiye-Africa cooperation will find new key sectors in the military and commercial fields”.


Türkiye signed a military cooperation agreement with Ethiopia earlier this year, during a visit to Ankara by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.


Ethiopia, together with Morocco, already buys weapons from Türkiye. In October, the Reuters news agency reported that both countries were buying Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have also been sold to Azerbaijan, Poland, and Ukraine.


Bilateral trade between Türkiye and African nations has also increased dramatically in recent years.


In the first 11 months of 2021, bilateral trade had reached 30 billion dollars, Erdogan said on Saturday, and Türkiye planned to increase it to more than 50 billion dollars in the coming years.


Erdogan added that some 25,000 Africans were employed on the continent by Turkish companies, in projects worth $78 billion, and more than 14,000 African students studied in Türkiye.


The improved economic cooperation between Türkiye and African nations was driven in part by Türkiye’s own desire to diversify its trading partners, said Ismail Numan Telci, deputy director of the Center for Middle East Studies in Ankara.


“Rather than limiting itself to its immediate neighbors, Türkiye has reached out to broader regions, including Africa, to diversify its strategic engagements. In this regard, Ankara has considered African countries to be equal partners in its foreign policy and economic goals,” Telci said.


Meanwhile, African leaders increasingly sought to find development partners outside the historic European power centers with colonial histories on the continent.


“In recent years, however, these countries have become increasingly aware of their unique potential, not only because of their economic strength but also because of their diplomatic and military capabilities.


“Therefore, these countries became more open to new regional and global powers, including Türkiye, to increase their commitments to defend their interests.”


Source: https://www-aljazeera-com.translate.goog/news/2021/12/18/turkey-africa-partnership-summit?_x_tr_sl=en&_x_tr_tl=es&_x_tr_hl=es&_x_tr_pto=sc