Africa deserves better: Erdogan

During his visit to East African states, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks to 'promote closer cooperation with regional allies and explore mutually beneficial opportunities'.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after signing cooperation agreements in the fields of diplomacy, defense, education, tourism, sports and energy at the Presidential Palace in Kampala, Uganda in June.

Updated Jun 3, 2016

Africa deserves better, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to East African countries which will come to an end on Friday.

In an opinion piece which he wrote for Al Jazeera, Erdogan said, "Many people in the world associate the African continent with extreme poverty, violent conflict and a general state of hopelessness. The people of Turkey have a different view. We believe Africa deserves better."

Erdogan, who is with Turkish politicians and businessmen on a trip to Kenya, Uganda and Somalia, wrote about Turkey's efforts in African states which he said have much to offer.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (L) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an official welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Kampala, Uganda on June 1, 2016.

In the article, Erdogan lined up three reasons why the continent has potential to turn things around. “First, the continent has a young and vibrant population at a time when Europe and other parts of the world are rapidly ageing.” He added that if the world cooperates, African women and youth could play an active role in economic and social life.

"Uganda and Kenya, among others, have not only large oil reserves but also plenty of fertile land and regular rainfall." Erdogan added, "The rest of Africa is no different." Touching on how the exploitation of resources and colonial rule eat into what should belong to local communities, he said, "If the world stops acting out of greed and focuses on helping the African people to help themselves, the continent could become an economic powerhouse."

According to the Turkish president, "The people of Africa have an entrepreneurial spirit” and the spirit “will help build a safer future for the next generation”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks past the guard of honour during an official welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace before he meets Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, Kenya on June 2, 2016.

Discussing the challenges faced by African nations, Erdogan said, "Many African nations, including Uganda, Kenya and Somalia, remain on the frontlines in the war against human suffering as Western nations devote their resources to building taller walls, ramping up security and tightening travel restrictions."

He said the people of Turkey and Africa were united in their experiences with terrorism. "As a country facing crucial challenges including terrorism, regional instability and the refugee crisis, we can relate to the predicament in which our partners such as Uganda and Kenya find themselves. Moving forward, we pledge to work with our African allies and friends more closely on counterterrorism, among other issues."

Erdogan stressed Turkey's willingness to continue its support as he said a deeper partnership “sends a strong message about Africa’s true potential in the world.”

A Humanitarian Partnership

Summarising his country's support to the continent, Erdogan said Turkey’s efforts, including organising initiatives, partnership summits and offering scholarships to African students, have intensified since 2002.

“A record number of official visits by Turkish and African leaders helped us to build stronger ties with the continent." But, Erdogan said, the cooperation with Africa has not been limited to official visits; there have been trade agreements across the continent.

Ending on an African proverb, Erdogan said, “True poverty is the lack of friends," He added, “Today and for ever, Turkey will be a friend, a compatriot and a partner of Africa.”