President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the signing ceremony of the agreements between the two countries, after a one-on-one and inter-delegation meeting with Somali President Hasan Sheikh Mahmud, who paid an official visit to Türkiye.

Türkiye-Africa Relations: A Case Study of Somalia, Nigeria and Libya from Humanitarian and Security Perspectives

This paper explores Türkiye’s relations with Africa, focusing on Somalia, Nigeria and Libya from both humanitarian and security perspectives. To do so, the study employs the concept of soft power in relation to the security and humanitarian policies that Türkiye has adopted on the African continent. Though Türkiye has no significant colonial history on the continent like other European countries, its relations with Africa in recent decades are no secret and continue to strengthen against all odds. From a relationship that stems from historical links with the Ottoman Empire to more promising and positive impacts on the continent in recent years, it is important to understand these ties amidst the increasing distaste expressed by some African nations towards the West. Using examples of Türkiye’s security and humanitarian deployment in Somalia, Nigeria and Libya, it is perhaps no surprise to perceive the relationship between Türkiye and African nations as a dichotomy between humanitarian and security.

Introduction

 

Türkiye’s historical relations with Africa, especially North Africa, have a rich and enduring legacy that can be traced back to the era of the Ottoman Empire, which rarely ventured into countries South of the Sahara, to modern-day relations that span across the continent. Özkan splits the history of Turkish-African relations into three key periods: Ottoman Empire to 1923, 1923 to 1998, and 1998 to the present.1 However, it is not the era in which the relations are divided, but the nature, impacts, and drivers of the relations. For instance, after the dismantlement of the Soviet Union and increasing adoption and conversion to free market economies, many countries in Africa embraced emerging powers such as China, Brazil, and Russia. These emerging powers had different approaches compared to historical colonial powers such as France and Britain, as well as the influence of the U.S. Yet, the emerging globalized economy and rising population made engagement with Africa fruitful, acting as an impetus for others.2 Türkiye, being a supporter of processes leading to decolonization periods, then began diplomatic relations with many countries further South of the continent, including Ghana, Nigeria, and Sudan.3 As such, Türkiye has begun to increase its influence and collaboration with countries within Africa, beginning with the proclamation that 2005 was “the year of Africa” and being considered a strategic partner of Africa in 2008.4 Since then, Türkiye has had observer status over numerous economic organizations, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), as well as sustained its engagement.5 Through this, Türkiye had established 20 new embassies in Africa and had increased the number to 43 by 2021.6 In order to lessen its dependency on Western nations, Türkiye is increasingly engaging with countries in Africa to strategically develop international and diplomatic relations that will continue to pay dividends. This is an exemplar of how soft power approaches can be adopted to enhance influence and power on the continent and continue to pave the way for Türkiye’s security and humanitarian policies. Soft power is often synonymized with other key terms, such as “diplomacy,” as opposed to hard power, which is associated with military action. In the present day, Türkiye’s use of soft power is characterized by its democratized and economically open nature, which is able to combine Islam and democracy and acts as an inspiration to many Arab countries.7 As a result, Türkiye continues to show promising and positive impacts on the continent, particularly through its security and humanitarian policies examined in subsequent sections of this paper…

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[Insight Turkey, October 4, 2023]

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