South Africa, thousands of kilometers away from Turkey, is both an African country and it is not. Cities like Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg make you feel like you are in a European or American city, although they are actually in the African continent. You realize this if you are struggling with the problems of the global world while you face the realities of Africa. That is why South Africa is a traditional African country as much as our world is modern. South Africa is the name of the place where you fall asleep in Africa and wake up in a modern world.
It is now known to our people how much importance Turkey places on Africa. It is possible to overcome the economic crisis we have been going through with Africa, as long as we follow the footsteps of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Ottoman Empire realized the importance of South Africa 160 years ago
The Ottoman sultan of the time, Abdulaziz, sent a scholar, Abu Bakr Effendi, from the Erzurum province to South Africa. Abu Bakr Effendi being a sophisticated man represented the Ottoman identity by studying in many fields such as education, law, language and literature in Cape Town, the city where he settled. Abu Bakr Effendi couldn’t make it back home and he was buried on a hill in Cape Town facing the Atlantic Ocean.
If you go to South Africa you will see the kind of a legacy Abu Bakr Effendi left behind. He has an important place especially among the South African Muslims. The schools he opened, the mosques he built, the way he tried to settle issues between Muslims is still being talked of.
Cape Town municipality opened a museum called Bokaap in his name and published a book about him. Abu Bakr Effendi’s children also followed in his legacy. Despite the pressure during the Apartheid regime, they proudly carried the surname “Effendi.” Abu Bakr Effendi is still a bridge between South Africa and Turkey. He is such a strong bridge that, although it has been almost 200 years since he arrived there, he tied the two peoples together and enabled them to still share the same feelings and sentiments.
New Abu Bakr Effendi’s are needed
South Africa is more important for Turkey than any other African country for three reasons. South Africa, where whites, blacks, coloreds and Asians coexist in harmony, is in an important position among other African countries in terms of its economic potential. Any economic relationship you establish with South Africa also means establishing economic relationships with Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The trade you establish with South Africa also means entering the markets of these countries. If you want to learn what Turkey produces in Zimbabwe, you first need to go to South Africa. Moreover, these countries are not rivals of Turkey, on the contrary these are the countries which will need Turkey’s cooperation. Many productive businesses can be conducted with the local businessmen in sectors such as the textile industry, automobile industry, construction, and medicine.
One of the most important problems of South Africa is unemployment. The investment that will be made here may help to solve this problem and contribute to the country’s economy. Especially, creating job opportunities for the black South Africans will strengthen the position of the Turkish businessmen.
South Africa is a tourism destination; it attracts more than 20 million tourists each year with its beaches and natural wonders. However, Turkey is one of the places where South Africans want to visit most. Each year, approximately 10 million South Africans visit Europe, India and the Far East. If we can promote the beauties of Turkey, our country may be one of the important tourism destinations for South Africans.
The reflexes of South African Muslims are very much like the reflexes of Turkish people. They are sensitive about the Palestinian issue, and their reflections on “the world is greater than five” slogan are quite similar too. The oppression the South African Muslims faced during the Apartheid regime and the oppression Turkish people faced during the single party regime are also similar. Despite being a minority, the Muslims are very influential in the economic structure of the country. Turkey could maintain its ties with the country by strengthening the relationships it established thanks to Abu Bakr Effendi. As long as new Abu Bakr Effendis come, this is possible.
The fight with the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) in Africa is also going through South Africa. If South Africa is persuaded about FETÖ, that means they will be wiped out in half of the countries in Africa. If you don’t conduct a fight which is institutional and in line with the country’s conditions, the possibility to become successful decreases. That is why it is necessary for Turkey to open a new parenthesis for South Africa and be present in the country with all its institutions. You can become permanent if you act by being aware of the unique conditions of South Africa. Then, no one can get in your way, and success will follow you.
South Africa is also the African country where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terror organization is the most active. They even have lobbying activities against Turkey in the country. The PKK sympathizers are influential in the governing African National Congress party and especially in the South African press. However, their success is a result of our absence in South Africa. If we are to be present in the country, if we explain ourselves well in South Africa, all the terror sympathizers will fall off the map.
Turkey needs to contemplate more on South Africa. There are institutions like Maarif, TIKA, the Yunus Emre Institute and nongovernmental organizations like MUSIAD and IHH which set Abu Bakr Effendi as an example. We need to include Diyanet Foundation and TRT to these institutions. I don’t see why cooperation between Turkish and South African universities should not be established, why think tanks such as SETA, ORDAF, AFAM and INSAMER shouldn’t have branches in there. A research center you establish in South Africa will help you to contemplate on Africa, understand it better and put what you learned into practice.
I don’t know what Abu Bakr Effendi was thinking 160 years ago when he set foot for the first time in South Africa, but I assume he already knew he could never come back home. He built strong foundations knowing that in the future, people coming from Turkey will also pass over the bridge he built. Now, our part is to pass over that bridge and show that we are also carrying out his mission. We are luckier than other nations because we have a guide like Abu Bakr Effendi.