Why Turkey Is Moving Towards Africa


By MACHARIA MUNENESomalia students boarding a Turkish Airlines plane to go for further studies in Turkey which is aggressively working to acquire clout in Africa

Somalilandsun – Two developments in the first decade of the 21st Century capture imagination.First, there is the proliferation of terminologies that refer to various stages in which countries are in terms of economic and geopolitical might.

Among the most common terminologies are “emerging” economies/powers, as opposed to “developed” or “developing”, which refer to countries whose global presence is increasingly felt and are competing with “developed” ones in projecting global presence.

Although some have already “emerged”, they prefer to be called “emerging”.

Second, extra-continental powers are scrambling for African resources and many of the “emerging” are struggling to find geopolitical space in Africa.

The “emerging” powers determine and project national interests through political leadership guiding national decisions in socio-cultural settings so as to increase and protect the prestige of the country concerned.

They develop vibrant economies, military muscles, and engage in socio-cultural infiltration of other countries and regions using what is popularly termed “soft power”.

In this sense, businessmen, politicians, economists, and various professionals in the state are functionaries in national grand designs to make each a power to reckon with. Among these states is Turkey whose territory is in both Asia and Europe.

Turkey, land of biblical and other religious relics, suffers self-ambivalence and seems psychologically torn between Asia and Europe. Despite the effort that began with Mustapha Kemal Atturtuk to become “European” or “modern”, it remains outside mental Europe.

EU struggles

It struggles to enter the European Union and can only watch as less advanced countries from eastern Europe are admitted into the club

Subsequently, Turks appear to have accepted the fact that they are barely tolerated and seem to be looking for alternative national orientation.

Generally, the 75 million Turks seem warm hearted. The Turks want to be felt in the club of “emerging economies”.

They are busy setting up ERBRU-AFRICA TV, based in Nairobi, to broadcast to the region. Their thriving airline reaches many African destinations, regularly flying to both Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, and Mogadishu in Somalia.

They open educational centres in many countries, plan hospitals and universities, and are big in war recovering Somalia. They are also engaging African businessmen, media, academics, and assorted policy makers.

They showed this in the Abant Platform conference in Abant, Turkey, by bringing together cabinet ministers, top AU officials, high court judges, university administrators, bishops, media personalities, politicians, diplomats, academics, and businessmen.

Turkey faces several challenges in its desire to engage Africa. These include tackling its own ambivalence and, mainly due to disappointments in its European aspirations, looking for alternative orientation to Euro-centredness.

This also calls for delinking Turkey from condescending Euro attitudes towards Africa. As it asserts itself globally, Turkey is successfully making serious effort to find geopolitical space in Africa.

Prof Macharia teaches at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya. This article was first published in the Business Daily