The official visit by Moussa Faki Mahamat (chairperson of the African Union Commission, AUC) and Mevlüt Çavusoglu (Turkey’s foreign affairs minister) has put an end to months of suspense. At their joint press conference, Çavusoglu announced that the third Turkey-Africa summit will take place in Istanbul on 17 and 18 December.
A lunch with Erdogan
Mahamat attended a series of meetings during his two-day visit. The first took place at the presidential palace, where he met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he then had lunch with, alongside Fuat Oktay and Çavusoglu. He then made his way to Parliament where he was received by its president, Mustafa Sentop. Mahamat ended his day at the Presidency for Turks Abroad and at Tika (the cooperation agency), where he signed, on the AU’s behalf, a memoranda of understanding with Turkey.
On 1 October, Mahamat flew to Istanbul. That day’s itinerary consisted of a boat trip on the Bosphorus, which had been organised by the employers’ organisation Deik. This organisation is very active in Africa, under president Nail Olpak’s leadership. Leaders of major Turkish companies were also in attendance: they include Selim Bora (Summa Group), Nuri Albayrak (Albayrak), Aygen Yenigün (Yenigün), Berna Akyildiz (Transtas), Berna Gözbasi (BRN) and Erhan Barutoglu (Tellioglu-Avrasya Enerji).
Later that evening, the AU delegation flew to Addis Ababa.
From Addis Ababa to Kinshasa
This trip thus put an end to months of uncertainty regarding the date of the Turkey-Africa summit. Although the previous editions were held in Istanbul (2008) and Malabo (2014), the third of its kind, which should have been held in April 2020, has been postponed several times due to the ongoing health crisis.
Furthermore, South Africa, which chaired the AU back in February 2020, insisted that the rule stipulating that two annual summits be held with a ‘strategic partner’ – a status that Turkey has – be respected. The summits planned for 2020 (one with the EU, the other with the Arab League) were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Ankara suffered the consequences of this calendar shift.
Nevertheless, Turkish officials did prepare for the event. Çavusoglu was at the forefront, supported by deputy minister Sedat Önal as well as Nur Sagman (the director of African affairs) and Can Incesu (the future summit’s coordinator). Both are fluent in French and have been ambassadors to Africa: Sagman to Guinea and Gabon and Incesu to Congo-Brazzaville.
In March 2021, Incesu visited Addis Ababa, where he joined forces with Yaprak Alp, Turkey’s ambassador to the AU, and worked with Nigeria’s Levi Uche Madueke, head of the AU’s Cooperation and Partnerships Department.
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Incesu also visited Kinshasa in July, during which time he met with Samy Adubango Awotho, the DRC’s deputy foreign minister. President Félix Tshisekedi and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, who will succeed him as AU president in 2022, have been involved in the issue.
French and Chinese rivals
In preparation for the summit, the Turks sent to the AU a report assessing Turkish-African cooperation between 2015 and 2020, as well as a five-year action plan. Their goal? “We want to see a united and independent Africa”, thereby alluding to the importance that Ankara attaches to the AU, and a muted criticism of French and Chinese rivals.
Since 2002, Turkey’s ties with Africa have continued to grow stronger. Trade has reached $25bn and Ankara now has 43 embassies on the continent, compared to 12 in 2003.
The privileged relations, which the presidential couple has had with several African leaders such as Senegal’s Sall, have contributed to this growth, even though some of those close to them are no longer in power, such as Guinea’s former president Alpha Condé.
First lady Emine Erdogan, who is strongly committed to humanitarian aid, has just published a book titled Afrika Seyahatlerim (‘My travels in Africa’), which has been translated into French, English and Arabic (Turkuaz Publishing). She gave copies of it to the African first ladies during the UN General Assembly in September. The royalties made from this book will be donated to the Africa House in Ankara, which was founded by Mrs. Erdogan and promotes African crafts.
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