When, in 2005, he first set foot on African soil, on a tour of Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had two goals: to take his country out of its almost exclusive relationship with the West and to open up previously untapped areas to Turkish trade.
The Turkish government had made a first attempt to improve ties with Africa back in 1998. Liberal foreign minister Ismail Cem drew up an “action pact for Africa”, but it was never implemented because of the serious economic crisis in Turkey. The coming to power of Erdogan’s Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi and the rise of the pious and dynamic Anatolian bourgeoisie in business changed the scene. In the wake of Turkish Airlines – which now serves 60 African cities – and giant conglomerates that have set out to win business on the continent, small Turkish companies are also seeking opportunities.
Fifteen years after Erdogan’s first visit, Turkey is now a big player. The government is a “strategic partner” of the African Union and a non-regional member of the African Development Bank. Its trade with Africa has grown from $3bn in the early 2000s to more than $26bn in 2019.
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