BY ANADOLU AGENCY
As Ankara places increasing emphasis on its ties with the continent, Turkey and Africa are set to hold another comprehensive summit, focusing on media and communication strategies to boost their images and bilateral cooperation
A two-day summit marking May 25, Africa Day, organized by Turkey’s Communications Directorate, will start in Istanbul on Wednesday and is expected to boost Ankara’s cooperation with African countries in the field of media and communication.
Eighty members of the press from 45 African countries will be in attendance as well as African diplomats, academics and representatives from the media, public institutions, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), said a directorate statement.
Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun will deliver the opening speech of the summit that aims to strengthen cooperation and coordination between Turkish and African media members and promotes sharing experiences and developing a partnership perspective.
Turkey aims to win alongside Africa and march together toward the future, Çavuşoğlu said in late 2021 in his commencement speech at the foreign ministers’ meeting of the third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit in Istanbul.
Ankara has frequently reaffirmed that Turkey’s approach in its ever-growing relations with African countries is based on equal partnership and a win-win principle, emphasizing the strong will to further develop commercial ties.
Turkey’s relations with African countries have gained momentum, especially after the declaration of 2005 as the “Year of Africa” and the first Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit in 2008. The vast majority of Turkey’s 43 embassies across the continent were opened following this summit. For example, 27 embassies were established in African countries between 2009 and 2014.
Having adopted a one-dimensional foreign policy shaped by its relations with the West for decades, Turkey has shifted to a more diversified, multidimensional and independent foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
Since taking office nearly two decades ago, first serving as prime minister, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been nurturing ties with Africa, presenting Turkey as a fairer player than the continent’s former colonial powers.
In 2021, Turkey’s trade volume with African countries was approximately $25 billion. Still, trade relations have further potential. Turkish companies operating across the continent since the 1970s have undertaken major projects, especially in the infrastructure sector.
The Yunus Emre Institute (YEE), the main institution responsible for carrying out Turkey’s cultural diplomacy activities, now has 10 cultural centers in eight African countries, with an aim to double this number in 2022.
These cultural centers not only help increase the interest in the Turkish culture and language but also reinforce and extend cultural exchanges.
Another public diplomacy initiative that has been instrumental in enhancing intercultural communication is the scholarship opportunities offered to African students through the Türkiye Scholarships of the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB).
As of 2022, Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s flag carrier, flies to 61 destinations in 40 African countries. Launching flights to 12 destinations on the continent in 2012 alone, Turkish Airlines is expanding its flight network in line with the priorities of Turkish foreign policy to help increase Turkey’s visibility in Africa.
Turkey’s military cooperation with African countries has not attracted much attention until the opening of the TURKSOM military training facility in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu in 2017 and the signing of a military and security cooperation agreement with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in 2019.
The last few years saw increasing interest in Turkey’s military presence in Africa, thanks to the increased export of weapons, armored vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to African countries, a direct result of Ankara’s growing defense industry. Turkish-made UAVs are in great demand from African countries.