Erdogan seeks deal in Turkey-Africa summit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked off a whistle-stop tour of African countries on Monday, meeting leaders and investors in Angola, Nigeria and Togo ahead of a Turkey-Africa trade summit on Thursday.

The Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum, held in Istanbul from 21-22 October, aims to provide a platform for Turkish businesses to gain a foothold on the continent.

Organised by the Turkish government and African Union, Rwakakamba Morrison, the chairman of Uganda’s Investment Authority called it an opportunity to “catch up with prospective investors here in Istanbul.”

The first day of the two day summit will see Turkish and African ministers of trade, investment, technology and logistics hold closed door meetings on ‘Deepening Turkey-Africa Partnership’.

The agenda for day one also schedules bilateral meetings with business leaders and ministers, as well as panel discussions on emerging opportunities in agriculture, healthcare and the new regional free-trade zone – the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The second day of the forum will host sessions promoting innovation, Turkish-African banking cooperation, trade finance and women’s leadership.

The last edition of the biannual event launched in 2016 was held online in October 2020 due to the pandemic.

Battle for hearts and minds

Since 2009, Ankara has engaged with African countries, big and small, at feverish speed, with Erdogan’s overriding ambition on the continent driven by trade and investment, says Tim Ash, an emerging markets economist at BlueBay Asset Management.

During a visit to Angola on Monday, the Turkish president said there were significant bi-lateral opportunities in the energy and defence sectors, with seven deals signed so far between the two countries.

“For quite a long time Turkey has been very Africa focussed. Under Erdogan, Turkey embassies have expanded massively globally as part of their effort to boost trade and investment,” Ash says.

That building spree has taken the number of Turkish embassies in Africa from a dozen in 2009 to 43 today. This year, it will open its 44th, in Guinea-Bissau.