Turkey seeks deeper relations with Africa

Turkish officials have termed President Erdogan's trip to two key member states of the East African Community (EAC) as a 'win-win.'

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands alongside his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni at a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Entebbe during the first stop of his visit to East Africa.

Updated Jun 1, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Uganda on Tuesday as part of his four-day official trip to East Africa.

Erdogan is scheduled to visit Kenya in the second leg of his trip.

During his visit to Uganda, he held meetings with his counterpart Yoweri Museveni and other local officials.

Turkish officials have called President Erdogan's trip to two key member states of the East African Community (EAC) a "win-win." 


Because Africa is rising.

Africa is the youngest continent in the world, home to 200 million people aged between 15 and 24.

Six of the 13 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, according to the World Bank's Global Economic Prospects 2016.

As the continent begins to play a vital role in the global arena, Turkey has undertaken initiatives to strengthen relations with African states.

President Erdogan travelled to West Africa last April for the same reasons.

But why is Erdogan visiting Uganda and Kenya now?


Kenya is the economic giant of East Africa.

Its capital city, Nairobi, is a business hub that hosts the headquarters of many international organisations and companies.

The country's gross domestic product (GDP) – a common way of measuring the size of economies – alone makes up around 40 percent of the region's total.

Kenya also plays an important political and strategic role in East Africa. 

Nairobi effectively mediated negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. The Machakos Protocol, signed in Kenya in 2002, was the first of many agreements leading to a ceasefire in the civil war between the two sides and South Sudan's independence.

In 2010 an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague brought about some changes in country's foreign policy.

The ICC opened an investigation into Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, accusing him of having a role in tribal violence after the 2007 presidential election that left more than a thousand dead.

Although the ICC dropped all charges against Kenyatta, the case led Kenya to look for new partners in global politics aside from Western states.

Turkey found a chance to strengthen its relations with Kenya.

To boost ties between the countries Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta paid an official visit to Turkey in 2014.

It was Kenyatta's first visit to Europe after he became president.

After the visit, trade between Kenya and Turkey reached nearly $150 million in 2015.

Both Turkey and Kenya need each other. Turkey would benefit from Kenyan help in diversifying its energy sources. 

Kenya is also seeking investment in the country's infrastructure which is needed to access oil reserves discovered in the country's west.

But it's not all about business; more than 400 Kenyan students currently study in Turkish universities under scholarships provided by the Turkish government.


Erdogan will be the first Turkish president to visit Uganda.

The country has many opportunities for Turkish investors in the agriculture, mining and tourism sectors.

It is strategically located in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. 

Apart from its strong agriculture sector, Uganda has many natural resources including cobalt, crude oil and gas.

Also, the world's longest river – the Nile – originates in Uganda.

This has an impact on the country's economic and political relations with its neighbours, such as Sudan and Egypt, which get most of their water from the Nile.

Despite fragile internal politics, Uganda remains relatively stable for the region in which it's located.

Turkey's relations with Uganda are not as deep as those with Kenya, but Turkey considers Uganda as a strategic partner in East Africa and aims to enhance cooperation with it further.

'"I consider Guinea as a friendly country. Beyond friendship, I consider it as a brother country," Erdogan says during a visit to the Guinean capital Conakry, on March 3, 2016.

The Turkish Embassy in Uganda's capital Kampala opened its doors in 2010.

Since then, trade between the two countries had risen to $29 million by the end of 2015.

A 'win-win' policy

Along with Turkish cabinet members, entrepreneurs from Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) are accompanying Erdogan on the current tour.

Ahead of the trip, the head of DEIK, Omer Cihat Vardan, said the organisation will set up business forums in Kenya and Uganda with the aim of enhancing contact between businessmen from Turkey and the two countries.

During his West Africa tour in April, President Erdogan said Turkey's objective in Africa was "building bridges on the basis of mutual respect and appreciation."

Turkish officials have called the move a "win-win policy."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan visit internal displaced people in Mogadishu,Somalia in 2011.

Turkey's approach towards Africa

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Turkey is pursuing "a human-oriented approach" towards Africa, rather than a colonialist or exploitative one.

Turkey became the third largest humanitarian donor in the world in 2013 and 2014, giving $ 3.3 billion in aid. In 2014, Turkey released $383 million in development assistance to African states.

Millions of dollars have been spent on constructing hospitals, as well as providing medical services and education in African countries.
Currently, 5437 students from African nations study in institutes of higher education in Turkey under Turkish government scholarships.

Cavusoglu – in an official Africa Day message on May 25 – said, "Turkey stands with its African brothers and sisters."

Author: Mucahid Durmaz