Africa’s external relations of the past several decades were suffered from the extremely limited agendas and instruments to execute them. This was mainly derived from the limited number Africa’s external relation partners. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, when many African countries regained their independence, the international political economy was highly influenced by the Cold War era ideological rivalry. African governments in order to promote their economic and political interests should align either with the Western or Eastern bloc countries. This seriously affected Africa’s choice of its external relation partner in the one hand and the nature of the economic as well as political agendas on the other.
As reports highlighted, Africa’s past relation with its traditional partners was not in favor of the former’s economic and political interest, though it stayed for several decades. Despite longstanding financial assistances, Africa couldn’t address its pressing problems such as poverty, unemployment, economic underdevelopment and political unrests. Together with other factors, Africa’s limited role in identifying its priorities and curving reliable implementation strategies were also worth to mention.
With the elimination of the bipolar world and its replacement with a multipolar global order, new actors began to emerge as an alternative external relation partner to Africa. Among these emerging actors, Turkey is one of the major partners with a multidimensional external relation approach. Since the commencement of the Turkey’s ²opening up to Africa policy² in the last decade of the twentieth century, Turkey has been taking persistent measures that diversify its relations with Africa.
Turkey has identified sectors which have strategic importance in its multidimensional relations with Africa. Areas such as agriculture, rural development, water resource management, the development of micro- and small-scale enterprises, security, health and transportation have been prioritized and measures have been taking accordingly.
Turkey-Africa First Agriculture Ministers Meeting and Agribusiness Forum that was held between 27-28 April 2017 in Antalya, Turkey is a good manifestation of the aforementioned Turkey’s multidimensional relation with Africa. The two-day meeting was attended by ministers (most of them are agricultural ministers) from the 54 African countries.
Agriculture is the backbone of Africa’s economy that can potentially assure the economic interest of the African masses.
As reports pointed out, almost one fourth of the world arable land is found in Africa. Together with this, the water resource of Africa has a capacity to further enhance its agricultural output.
The forum also assists Turkey’s effort to promote a higher degree of economic interdependency with Africa especially in the area of agriculture. As it is noted by Turkey’s Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Faruk Çelik, Turkey’s trade with Africa increased from $5 billion in 2005 to $18 billion in 2016. In terms of agriculture, the trade has increased from $418 million up to $2.5 billion. This higher degree of economic interdependency in agricultural and non-agricultural products clearly illustrate the effort towards a multidimensional relation between Turkey and Africa.
The meeting that signifies the rise of Turkey’s strategic partnership with Africa choose “Turkey-Africa Partnership on Rural Development for Achieving Food Security” as a main theme. This theme further symbolizes Turkey’s multidimensional response towards the current drought and famine in East Africa.
As it is reflected by Ethiopia’s Ambassador in Turkey, Ayalew Gobezie ‘Turkey is not only supporting the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, but also assisting the long term and comprehensive development efforts in the country’. Turkey’s governmental as well as non-governmental organizations are actively involving in the effort to fulfill the immediate demand of people affected by the current drought.
As Turkish foreign policy analyst highlights, ‘Turkey’s long-term interest in Africa is not limited to aid to the continent but it also aims at developing economic and diplomatic collaboration on an equal basis with equal partners, which would foster mutual economic development and growth. The issues dealt in the first Turkey-Africa Agriculture Ministers Meeting and Agribusiness Forum such as agricultural financing and credits, agricultural mechanization and irrigation systems, agricultural trade and investment, youth employment and women in rural development also illustrated this fact.
All the aforementioned strategic agendas and firm commitment to work up on them will have profound implication in addressing the age-old problems of underdevelopment in Africa. During the past several decades, African governments had little chance to deal with long-term projects. Since most of the then global powers need Africa to fulfill their immediate interests, they hardly invested their time, energy and finance on projects which may bear fruit after decades.
Hence, hand in hand with the ongoing humanitarian effort there must be long-term and strategic engagements which aim to address the problem in a sustainable manner. And here lies the logic behind a multidimensional approach to Africa in its relations with the international community.
In general, the course of building a multidimensional Turkey-Africa relation should provide maximum attention to fulfill the economic and political interest of the masses. Turkey should take lesson from the past ill-advised foreign policies and strategies that negatively affected Africa’s development. Furthermore, Turkey should also systematically assess the challenges that emerging powers such as China and India have been experiencing in Africa. As many African foreign policy analysts highlight, the ongoing relationship of Africa with emerging powers has been dictated by the elites. With the exception of few countries such as Botswana, the benefits of Africa’s current economic and political relation with emerging powers do not fairly distributed. Turkey should carefully analyze these gaps and take measures accordingly. Hence, together with the state to state relation, non-state actors in Turkey have to also consolidate cooperation with their counterparts in Africa.