President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Africa visits have become one of the most important routines of his foreign policy. Africa’s relations with Turkey are special compared to that of other countries. While Turkey takes one step toward Africa, Africa takes 10 steps toward Turkey. It responds to Turkey’s smallest approach with due honor. This is because in Turkey’s approach towards Africa, especially President Erdoğan’s, the relationship presents mutual friendship and respect.
We had mentioned it during another of his visits; Western countries’ approach towards Africa throughout history presents an important insight in revealing the true colors of the entirety of European history, and values such as modernity, democracy, freedoms and human rights. Today’s world order was also based on this relationship of colonialism, invasion and domination. It is not possible to establish a new world before criticizing this dynamic, before confronting it.
However, as emphasized by Erdoğan at every opportunity, Turkey always strives to forge bonds wherein there will be mutual benefit. Thus, Turkey always conducts its visits with the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), Yunus Emre Institute, Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK), Maarif Foundation, businesspeople and ministers who are going to play an active role in development. The operations of these institutes and actors is not established on Turkey’s interests alone; it is based more on the role that “he who gives is better than he who receives.”
As Erdoğan carries out this policy, no country is Africa is overlooked. For example, Gambia, which he visited for the first time yesterday, is Africa’s smallest country in terms of surface area. However, its political stance with Turkey is great. It was the first country to close down the Fetullah Terrorist Organization’s (FETÖ) school in its country after the treacherous July 15, 2016 coup attempt and transfer it to the Maarif Foundation upon Turkey’s request. In addition to the school that currently has 120 students, the leasing process has been completed to open a new school with a 500-student capacity. This boost is also a sign of the demand for Maarif Foundation Schools in the region. As a matter of fact, if you take a closer look you’ll see that after FETÖ marketed themselves as “Turkish schools” for years, they recently miraculously rebranded using Erdoğan’s name. As they exploited the fact that Erdoğan’s name is so warmly received across Africa, they actually were dumb enough to think that it was all thanks to them.
TİKA also launched its operations in Gambia as of 2018 and provides development aid to Gambia in various fields. Meanwhile, even if it is the first presidential visit, the Joint Economic Commission already held its first conference in 2014. The second is going to be held in May this year in Turkey.
Gambia is almost like an island within Senegal, which President Erdoğan had visited in March two years ago and the last destination on his Africa trip. In terms of its geographical position, the establishment of such a country is the result of the sharing battle between France and the U.K. Otherwise, there is no difference between the, in terms of human traits, their religion and language– other than their tribe.
Though Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Senegal started in 1962 with the establishment of a Turkish embassy, Senegal was only able to establish an embassy in Turkey in 2006. Frankly, relations between the two countries, as is the case with numerous countries, has largely been due to our president’s friendly relations with the president of Senegal.
Here, Turkish businessmen have also made critical investments. The Dakar airport was built by Limak and is still being successfully run by the company. However, trade recorded at more than 400 million in 2018 dropped to below 300 million in the following year. Emphasis was made to boost this number and further develop it.
The Maarif Foundation is also active in Senegal. It has four campuses and education institutes in three different cities (Dakar, Thies, St Louis). The schools gaining a strong brand value by the day is obvious from an increasing demand. The foundation currently continues its operations in 24 African countries.
For the U.S. and Europe, Senegal is the door that opens to Western Africa, which has a total population of 300 million. Historically, it is the hub of slave trade, especially in slave trade that started since the establishment of America.
Goree Island is where Africans were enslaved, loaded onto ships like commodity, and kept in storage to be transported to the U.S., today’s civilized world. Therefore, Senegal can also actually be considered as the location of the most atrocious human exploitation in the Western world’s dirtiest history.
In the business forum he attended during his previous visit, President Erdoğan reiterated that the “world is greater than five,” saying that a new world order will certainly be established and that he wants to walk side by side with Africa while this order is being established:
“As companions of the new world, there is no dark stain we can show against one another in our joint millennium-long history. Hence, having a pure joint history turns being in a much closer cooperation in building the future into a responsibility. Africa visits take place as a pre-requisite of this responsibility.”