Erdogan’s Engagement Finds Willing Partners in Africa

Erdogan’s Engagement Finds Willing Partners in Africa
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Senegal President Macky Sall shake hands prior to their meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 26, 2018 (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal this week, returning to the African continent just months after his most recent four-day, three-nation tour last October, as well as the Third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, which was held in December in Istanbul. The Turkish leader, who has visited more than 30 African countries since becoming prime minister and then president, has devoted considerable effort to cultivating relations with his African counterparts and expanding his country’s presence across the continent.

In a WPR article written after Erdogan’s October tour of Angola, Nigeria and Togo, I noted the steps Ankara has taken to reestablish its once-prominent links to Africa, which faded with the decline of the Ottoman empire. This effort, driven considerably by Erdogan’s personal diplomacy with African heads of state and government, includes leveraging Turkey’s diplomatic, development, commercial and cultural tools to gain inroads in Africa, despite its modest resources, at least as compared with its main competitors—the “Big 3” of China, the United States and the European Union.

The week’s visit began with Erdogan’s Sunday arrival in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, where he was welcomed with an official ceremony at the Kinshasa International Airport by senior Congolese officials including Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala. Erdogan later held a joint press conference with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, where he thanked Tshisekedi for Congo’s “support in our fight against the FETO terrorist organization.” He also offered his condolences for the Congolese citizens who died in a Feb. 1 terror attack and pledged to “stand with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its fight against terrorism.”

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