Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Turkey’s Policy in Africa

Turkey's multi-dimensional policy in Africa is based on its “Open to Africa Policy” strategy. In this context, a total of 12 Turkish embassies served in Africa until 2009, today the number has increased 39 embassies.
As it is known, during the Ottoman period, social, cultural and commercial ties which were already existed with Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya and Algeria continued with the Turkish Republic.Today, new Turkish policies are aimed at strengthening trade ties with African countries through schools, and aid programs based on Islam.

Turkey’s “present” strategy in Africa is centred on the accusations of former western colonial powers, as Turkish diplomats and journalists are constantly talking about the evils of French, German, Belgian and British colonialists.

On the other hand, when the Turkish President Erdogan speaks of relations with the continent, he often uses the word ‘win-win‘. But this is not the case in Turkey’s relations with Africa.


Turkey signed trade and economic cooperation agreements with 38 African countries in its “Open to Africa Policy”. The “Development Strategy for Commercial and Economic Relations with African Countries” implemented in 2003, trade in artic with Africa has been a great success. In the last fifteen years, the trade has increased to $ 20 billion a year.

Turkish traders, who boasts of “direct investment” in the African economy, do not actually reflect the truth about these issues.

However, it is not welcomed by the many Africans that Turkish businessmen prefer exporting fast consumer products instead of direct investment. Turkish businessmen usually trade in risk-free areas such as construction contracting and fast-moving consumer goods.

Another problem is selling foreign products like Turkish products. A good example; Turkey’s annual exports of sunflower oil to Africa is about $ 1 billion. In fact, Turkey’s cooking oil production is far from meeting their own needs.

So what are the ‘genius’ Turkish traders doing? They purchase sunflower oil from Ukraine or Russia and bring to Turkey. İn Turkey, they mix it with cottonseed oil (can be much cheaper than cooking oil) and packaged. After the packaging process, it is bottled send to their brothers to sell in Africa.

Same stuff goes for mineral oils. The cheapest and low-quality mineral oils are bought from Russia, and sent to their “African brothers” with the “Made in Turkey” on very flashy packages.

Turkish traders do not only sell Russian products as Turkish brands. They also sell laundry detergents purchased from China and sent to Africa after printing the Turkish label on them

Another invention of Turkish businessmen is power ships. In order to meet the rapidly increasing demand for energy in the sub-Saharan area, the genius Turkish traders invented the power ship. Today, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Gambia, Mozambique and Madagascar supply the urgent electricity needs of Turkish producers working with fuel and oil.

Another issue is the Turkish cement factories on the continent. Raw material (clinker). These factories do not really manufacture the cement they sell. They import from china and rebrand then sell to Africans.

In this context, it is possible to say that Turkish businessmen do not help the African economy in any way.


Turkish Airlines is one of the strategical points of Turkey’s Africa policy. Turkish Airlines (THY) flies to 48 destinations in 31 African countries and as a result of these direct flights, cultural and social exchanges have intensified between Turkish and African communities. Thanks to THY, it is easier for Turkish citizens to invest in the continent and to travel around the region for touristic purposes.

Also, with the setup of the New Istanbul Airport; the world’s largest airport, Istanbul will become a more important centre for air traffic. So there is no doubt that THY will be the company that carries the highest number of passengers on flights to Africa.

THY’s cheap tariff policy is a poisoned gift for Africans. Cheap flights are of course a good thing for Africans as they will have access to cheap transportation. However, this policy makes it impossible for local airlines to compete. Therefore, the development of the African aviation sector is blocked. Another drawback is that the staff is not African.


From the Caucasus to the Balkans and the Middle East for the last 300 years, the foundation of the soft power of the Turkish state formed the “official” imams. The most important strategy of the Turkish state to dominate other Muslim communities as was the case with the Ottoman Empire. This strategy is being implemented in sub-Sahara today, but with a slightly improved strategy.

Until the military coup in 2015, Fethullah Gulen’s leadership led the Turkish state to work in Africa. The presence of the results of bloody military coup in Turkey this movement rightly began to be liquidated by the Turkish State. The highest income of this organization was Sub-Saharan Africa.

Following the dissolution of the terrorist organization (FETO), imams and the Naqshbandi sect, who were affiliated to the official Presidency of Religious Affairs, were appointed to maintain the relations with the Muslims in that region. Hence, the people change but the policies do not.


Turkey is supporting several military operations in Africa. In addition, the military base in Somalia began to operate at the time when the Government of Sudan approved the opening of Senaki island to the use of Turkish Navy.

However, in the context of the counter terrorism and training of local staff like in Somalia, the Turkish army may not be present in the same concept in other sub Saharan regions. The best example of these issues is Sudan. As it is known, in recent months, the Sudanese government opened the Senaki island for Turkish military ships. There is no counter-terrorism in this agreement.

On the other hand, Turkish defence industry is rapidly developing and needs new markets. According to some defence analysts, Turkey will be one of Africa’s newest weapons supplier.  However, Ankara is trying to combine military bases and soft power with military capacity on the continent.


Turkey’s official news agency Anadolu Agency (AA) has a total of 11 offices in Africa. Anadolu Agency is another soft Turkish power on the black continent. As a NATO member, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, is ironically sharing anti-western propaganda for Africans.

Anadolu Agency continues to attract interest in Africa with its French and English publications. Another aim of AA is to inform Turkish citizens about Africa.


The Turkish governments, give African students special attention on education issues. Turkey in the last 30 years, is conducting a systematic policy regarding the opening of school in Africa. This is so overwhelming as African schools are affiliated to Turkish schools.  Until 2015, this policy was implemented through American-sponsored schools affiliated to the Gülenist community. After the FETO coup attempt in 2015, Turkish government negotiated with African governments to transfer these links with African schools to the Turkish Ministry of Education. The mission of these links do not change with change the ownership of these schools. The strategic goal of these relationship with schools is to promote trade with students.

Also, there are around 5,000 African students studying in Turkey. The Turkish government offers scholarships to African students. These students are of strategic importance to their countries post-graduation.


If we talk about the positive activities of Ankara for the continent, the main activities are the aid programs. The second country with the highest humanitarian assistance in Africa is Turkey. America occupies first place with the USAID program. Accordingly, in 2014, regarding the contribution of non-governmental organizations in the areas of education, health and capacity building, Turkey disbursed $3.3 billion to Africa.

Turkey pays special attention to clean water issues in particular. Intensive drilling operations are being carried out throughout the continent.

Another aid program is free surgeries. This operation in line with one of the major needs of Africans. An overlooked detail is the training courses of the Turkish charities.

In fact Turkey has no serious political influence in Africa. Compared with countries like China, France, UK, The USA or Russia. In terms of investment compared with China’s $ 175 billion investment, Turkey’s $ 10 billion budget does not seem serious.

Ankara’s humanitarian aid to the continent is really admirable, but the attitude of the businessmen overshadows this good will.

AFRIC Editorial Article.

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