Turkey's President Erdogan shifts away from Europe and towards Africa for trade
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently concluded another tour of Africa aimed at cementing lucrative partnerships and trade deals during another escalation of tensions with the West.
From mining to health, energy to infrastructure, Turkish businesses are popping up across the resource-rich continent and signing deals hailed as a "win-win", the AFP said in a report.
This pivot away from traditional European markets has already seen Turkey's trade with Africa balloon from $5.4 billion when Erdogan came to power in 2003 to $25.4 billion last year.
Back from a visit to Angola, Togo and Nigeria -- and in the middle of another diplomatic spat with the West -- Erdogan told an African business forum last week that Turkey wanted to see trade triple in the coming years.
One of the most strategic and controversial areas of this cooperation is defence, where Turkey has been flaunting the game-changing successes of its military drones on the battlefields of countries such as Libya.
"Defence industry products offer a new opportunity," said associate professor Mursel Bayram of Ankara's Social Sciences University.
Erdogan once described Turkey as an "Afro-Eurasian" nation and has visited the most African countries -- 30 out of 54 -- of any non-African head of state.
The number of Turkish embassies in Africa has grown from 12 to 43 since 2002 while the national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, flies to over 60 African destinations.
The chief of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board, Nail Olpak, pointed to Africa’s young and fast-growing population, and the continent’s huge need for infrastructure, from electricity to bridges, drinking water to waste disposal, where Turkish companies excel.
Turkish firms have already built a mosque in Ghana, an indoor stadium in Rwanda, an Olympic swimming pool in Senegal, and are working on an airport in Sudan.
For African officials, Turkish companies offer jobs and reasonably priced goods the quality of which often compares favourably to those from China -- one of the continent's most aggressive investors.
"We see Turkey as a serious friend who wants to invest in Africa," Tanzania Industry and Trade Minister Kitila Mkumbo told the Africa business forum in Istanbul, attended by more than 40 African and Turkish ministers.
"Africa is no longer interested in aid, Africa is interested in investment," Mkumbo said in a speech which received rapturous applause.
The bid to expand African trade comes with the Turkish lira steadily sinking to new lows, which makes exports even more competitive.
Different from China
Some analysts believe Ankara has developed more goodwill in Africa than has Beijing, whose projects have been known to put developing countries into heavy debt.
Erdogan's assertive foreign policy has been a source of rising tension with the West, with critics accusing the Turkish leader lacking a strategy. But in Africa, experts say Turkey is following a more considered approach.