Notwithstanding the officially stated mission of the Turkish President Erdoğan’s recent tour in Africa where he visited Angola, Togo and Nigeria, it was in further pursuit of his country’s interests in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Over the past three decades, many developing countries with an ambition to achieve accelerated economic growth in the shortest time possible have exploited Sub-Saharan African countries to achieve their economic and other strategic interests with disproportionately little or no benefit for the countries in return.
- EndSARS: Lagos to publish, implement judicial panel report — Sanwo-Olu
- FG confirms killing of new ISWAP leader, Bako
Until their independence respectively, Sub-Saharan African countries’ human and natural resources had been savagely exploited by European colonial powers. Yet, their departure did not end the exploitation; it has persisted albeit in “civilised” and “sophisticated” ways.
Since then, many developing countries have equally followed suit in various ways and under various disguises. A typical ambitious developing country would somehow gain access to Sub-Saharan African country’s natural resources and raw materials under various so-called win-win arrangements, to embark on systematic plunder of the resources while also flooding the country with its industrial products. China and India have been particularly involved in this regard; they owe a great deal of their respective economic achievements to such arrangements.
Other countries, including some non-Sub-Saharan African countries e.g. some Arab countries, equally partake in the plunder through their various activities ranging from infrastructure provision, services and distribution of industrial products from their respective countries.
Whether those Sub-Saharan African countries’ power elites realise that but simply turn a blind eye in return for kickbacks, or are simply too incompetent to realise it, their countries remain a mere steppingstone and a shortcut for many equally developing but determined countries to achieve faster economic development.
Turkish growing involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa is equally in that context. Since Erdoğan’s rise to power two decades ago, and having been particularly hell-bent on securing geopolitical and potentially global influence for his country, Sub-Saharan Africa has been of particular interest to him. Over that period, Turkey has increased its embassies in Sub-Saharan Africa from only four to 43. However, over the past decade particularly, Turkish economic involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa has been increasingly driven by its geopolitical power struggle with particularly France, Russia and Egypt over Libya and the Mediterranean Sea.
Since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime a decade ago, which plunged the country into chaos, struggle for influence between foreign governments involved in the crisis has been particularly fierce among those four countries; they have been struggling to drive one another out of the country.
Libya is of paramount significance to Turkey, because it targets its massive oil and gas resources; and its dominant influence there would guarantee it a more reliable energy source that’s invulnerable to geopolitically motivated manipulation and blackmail at the hands of its main current suppliers e.g. Russia and Iran.
Therefore, in its strategy against France in particular, Turkey has been leveraging its growing economic commitments in Sub-Saharan Africa in undermining France influence in the region, which is considered its exclusive sphere of influence. It’s determined to eventually replace France as the most influential foreign government in the core Sahel countries e.g. Chad and Niger Republic, which share borders with Libya. Turkish first military base in the Sahel is expected to be established in Niger following the ratification of a pact to that effect between the two countries last year. It will also be the third of its kind after those in Libya and Somalia.
With established military bases and intelligence-gathering and processing units in Niger and potentially Chad, and diminished France influence in the region, Turkey’s mission in Libya would be hugely facilitated.
What makes Erdoğan’s involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa particularly different from that of China and India, for instance, is its political undertones, which bring to memory similar involvements by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt who managed to mobilise considerable sympathy across Sub-Saharan Africa for Arab countries in their conflict with Israel, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, the self-appointed “King of African Kings” as he called himself.
However, the relatively smarter Erdoğan is pragmatic par excellence for his exceptional ability to effortlessly fluctuate between contradictory characters and stances. He is skilled at assuming the character of either an uncompromising Islamist, conformist secularist, sympathetic populist, insensitive elitist, or Pan-Turkic chauvinist, depending on the situation, interests he pursues and his audience at a given time.
That’s why during his recent visit to Nigeria, and even though he realises how millions of Nigerian Muslims are carried away by his Islamist rhetoric, he never addressed any issue in that context, for he realises its potential implications on the country’s delicate ethno-religious sensibilities.
Unlike in other Sub-Saharan African countries, Erdoğan’s mission in Nigeria, at least so far, was to further deepen the penetration of the Nigerian market with Turkish industrial products and services. As expected also, he further pushed for Nigeria’s cooperation to close down Nile University and the network of NTIC schools linked to Fethulah Gulen who he accuses of being behind the 2016 coup attempt against him.