Crescent in Africa: Turkey - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Crescent in Africa: Turkey

The close relations President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan established with African countries and the importance he attached to them during his tenure as prime minister have continued. The African tours he took after being elected president in 2014 have now become a tradition with his visit to Africa in 2016. The African destinations on his tour, which started yesterday, are Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Guinea.

These countries are important members of the 15 West African countries that make up the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) established in 1975. With a geographical area of 5 million square kilometers, population exceeding 300 million and income of more than $700 billion, this community represents a major economic power on the African continent.

ECOWAS primarily wants to form an economic integration among West African states similar to the EU and eventually switch to a common currency in 2020. In other words, it wants to become Africa's new economic power.

These four countries on President Erdoğan's travel itinerary have other common qualities: like other African countries, these four countries are not using their full economic potential.

Ivory Coast, which will be hosting a Turkish president for the first time, possesses the kind of natural resources over which developed countries today are competing. Oil, natural gas, diamonds and gold are only a few of these. Despite having agriculturally fertile lands, Ivory Coast is among the lowest-income economies.

The same is true for Ghana and Guinea. In fact, Ghana was called the “Gold Coast” in reference to its gold reserves. The fact that Ghana remains among the world's poorest countries despite this shows the problematic “comprehensive growth” issue which Turkey brought up many times during its presidency of the G20.

These countries continued placement in the low-income category, despite their prosperous topsoil and rich natural resources, is the result of systematic comprehensive growth.

Turkey signifies trust for African countries

Meanwhile, only one side profiting from the commercial relations of these countries with European countries or Western communities is a reflection of the economic indicators in African countries. In fact, this process has taken a constitutional form. However, Turkey's Africa initiative has led to a radical change in this perception. Turkey, which has taken effective actions in Africa after the Africa initiative it launched in 2005, has made a good name for itself on the continent by looking out for profit to mutual benefit with a “win-win” system. President Erdoğan's visit to Somalia during his office as Prime Minister laid the cornerstone in establishing trust. His visit to Somalia, a country forgotten and ignored by the world, paying no heed to any obstacles, drew the attention of the world to African geography.

The visit to Somalia resulted in Turkey's inclusion in the African equation – an unexpected outcome for those who had engaged in the years-long one-sided “win” system in Africa to their heart's desire. The Somali experience is a remarkable reference to Turkey's relationship with African countries.

Nigeria once again, from where Erbakan left off

The African geography contains great opportunities for Turkey to eliminate the negative reflection of geopolitical risks caused by the incidents in the Middle East on the economy. This is a very-well timed visit in terms of strengthening commercial and economic ties with the reality that the perception of Turkey in Africa will open many doors.

Nigeria, one of the destinations on the president's current tour, has a special political and economic significance for Turkey. Africa's most populated country, responsible for approximately 65 percent of ECOWAS, Nigeria is considered the strongest country in commercial ties today as it was 20 years ago.

Nigeria, also an OPEC country, is quite rich in terms of oil and natural gas sources. A provider of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Turkey as well, Nigeria stands out on the African continent in the power equation formed around energy.

At a time when the search for alternatives in energy has gained speed considering the crisis with Russia, we can say that Nigeria's influence will increase rapidly.

The country also has a significant place in the D-8, an organization consisting of eight developing Muslim countries, formed in 1997 under the leadership of late former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. The new economy model started 20 years ago by Erbakan was postponed by the February 28 coup. Now, 20 years later, the journey is continuing where he left off.

Hoping that another February 28 will never again be experienced in the country's economy and politics, and may God have mercy on Erbakan's soul.


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