After submitting her credentials to the Togolese authorities on Tuesday, Esra Demir will be Turkey's first ambassador to Togo. A new diplomatic representation which shows Erdoğan's political will to establish itself in Africa.
Robert Dussey, the Togolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, received on Tuesday the credentials of the new Turkish ambassador in Lomé, Esra Demir. This is the 43rd Turkish embassy which is establishing itself on the continent, and the 31st in the last 18 years.
Turkey has multiplied its trade with Africa by five in the last fifteen years, and Turkish direct investments in African countries have multiplied by 70 during the last two decades.
The former head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Carlos Lopes, tweeted barely a month ago that "Turkey's footprint in Africa is growing larger than most European countries in very little time ". Indeed, since Erdoğan became Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003, before becoming President, he has made no less than 29 working visits to Africa. The current Turkish head of state has therefore enjoyed the status of strategic partner of the African Union for 16 years.
A privileged relationship between Turkey and Togo
Turkey and Togo have sought to open the new embassy for two years now. The relationship of the two countries had evolved over the years thanks to the multiple development projects of the Turkish government in Togo. And unlike European or Chinese investments, Turkish companies are targeting a local market.
Esra Demir, the new ambassador, will be able to put the launch of her country's new investments in Togo back on track. One of these projects will be the agricultural products processing platform, announced in turn by the Turkish Ambassador to Benin, and more recently by the Turkish Ambassador to South Africa, Elif Ülgen.
We can therefore expect more cooperation between the two countries, especially as the new ambassador has a good reputation in the region, having been very active when she was ambassador in Côte d'Ivoire.
Turkey is thus realizing its ambition to make Togo its first partner in the sub-region. All in a context where the nation of Erdogan is strengthening its cooperation with this West African country. It is increasingly evident that Turkish expansion in sub-Saharan Africa will also serve as a springboard for its political, economic and even military establishment in other regions of the continent.
Without a colonial past, Turkey has an advantage
Certainly, Turkey has invested a lot of effort in Africa, as have the Western and Middle Eastern powers. But its expansion on the continent also appears to be part of Erdoğan's larger ambition to resuscitate the Turkish monopoly on the Mediterranean.
This in no way detracts from Turkey's concrete commitment, which has been proven time and time again with the Turkish President's trips to Mogadishu in 2011 and 2016, as well as the numerous humanitarian aid last year in Niger, Chad and Tunisia to help fight against the precariousness caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
These benevolent gestures also have a geopolitical objective: Erdoğan has, more than his predecessors and most heads of state, a solid presence in Africa which is essential for any international actor. It is for this reason that Turkish diplomatic and economic agio in Africa has been supported by its own defense industry. Besides the Turkish military base in Somalia, Turkey has made great strides towards military cooperation with Nigeria, Libya, South Africa, Ethiopia and potentially Togo. The latter had invested the equivalent of 120% of its GDP in armaments over a period of 13 months.
Specialist Ali Bilgic, in an analysis published by the South African Daily Maverick, explains that Turkey's interests in Africa remain indivisible, and although Erdoğan's priority is North Africa, he also seeks to act in a different way from China and Europe.
“You cannot separate Turkish economic, political, humanitarian and military objectives from each other. In this sense, Turkey is following in the footsteps of many Western powers in Africa. However, unlike them, Turkey presents itself as an Afro-Eurasian state, therefore not an external power with a colonial past, but someone from the continent, a partner ”, summarizes Bilgic.
Turkey is now engaged in Africa. For better or for worse, the country of Erdoğan shows a benevolence that Europe, China or the Anglo-Saxons have not been able to show, especially in the last few years. Will Togo benefit from it?