I am often asked how Turkey sees Africa, our priorities and expectations. An African proverb sums it up: If you want to go fast, walk alone, if you want to walk far, walk together.
Far from being short-termist, our vision is sustainable and human-centric. Since 2005, our diplomacy has taken a multi-dimensional approach, both economic and humanitarian, and is getting clear results: the large uptick in our political, commercial, security and cultural ties is proof of its effectiveness.
Our participation in the African Development Bank, our strategic partnership with the African Union, and the mutual high-level visits – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has visited 28 African countries, including those during his time as prime minister – have played an important role in building ties between our peoples. Turkey has 42 embassies in Africa, and we have given ourselves the goal of building diplomatic representation in all 54 countries.
Our institutions, which include development agency TIKA, cultural institutes Yunus Emre, the Maarif education foundation, the religious affairs foundation Diyanet, the disaster-response agency AFAD and our press agency Anadolu are our flag-bearers. As is Turkish Airlines.
Aid during the pandemic
Early on at the start of the pandemic, we had the understanding that a vaccine would be the only real solution to end the crisis. Of the 193 vaccination candidates on the WHO list, 11 are from Turkey.
We want the future vaccine to be owned by all of mankind and for it to be produced in sufficient quantities to respond to the needs of all countries, and that it will be given out free of charge.
The production of ‘Made in Turkey’ respirators and personal protective equipment constituted the majority of our non-financial aid sent to Africa to help combat the pandemic. Around 3.5m masks, a million blouses and medical biohazard suits, 160,000 testing kits and 217 respirators were sent to 45 countries.
All this work, which mobilises our ministries, our missions abroad, the Turkish Red Crescent, Turkish organisations abroad, etc., is carried out in liaison with the coordination and support centre of the foreign affairs ministry. As President Erdogan often reminds us, our relationship with the continent is based on sincerity, fraternity and solidarity.
This article is available as part of the print edition of The Africa Report magazine: ‘Africa in 2021 – Who will be the winners and losers of the post-Covid era?’