Global Insider: Turkey-Africa Relations

With the turmoil in North Africa impacting Turkey's primary commercial ties with the continent, Turkish exports to sub-Saharan Africa have grown sharply this year. In an email interview, Thomas Wheeler, a longtime South African diplomat and researcher at the South African Institute for International Affairs, discussed Turkey-Africa relations.

WPR: What is the history of Turkey's trade and diplomatic relations with sub-Saharan Africa?

Thomas Wheeler: Turkey had few relations with sub-Saharan Africa until the 1990s. Admittedly, the Ottoman sultan appointed honorary consuls in South Africa in the 19th century, but during the Republican era from 1922, Ankara's emphasis was on consolidating the new Turkish state and building good relations with neighboring countries. That was followed more recently by Turkey's attempts to become a member of the European Union. The subsequent stalling of Turkey's EU accession bid, combined with a strengthened Turkish economy and a political leadership eager to look beyond ties with Europe and the U.S., led to a policy of outreach to Africa during the 2000s.

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