Turkey- Africa Ties: Africa Union a Big Letdown
The increased traffic to Africa by China, Japan India and Europe to strike business deals is welcome. It helps drive home the point that whereas Africans see poverty in their continent, foreigners see abundant resources and wealth.
|A View of Instanbul at Night|
It is in this light that the strategic partnership formed by Turkey and the African Union (AU) has seen Turkey aggressively work at wooing Africa for purposes of enhancing trade, diversifying its exports and finding new export portals. The move has seen Turkey host a number of Africa-Turkey forums, the most recent being the Turkish African CSOs Forum in Istanbul (August 14-16) and the ongoing Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit for heads of African states and government.
Whereas Turkey’s advances are welcome, the manner in which the AU is conducting its affairs may lead to a Turkey-Africa imbroglio. In the recent Turkish-African CSOs Forum, the conveners, Turkish African Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM) was put to task regarding a declaration- The Turkish African CSOs Forum Istanbul Declaration- the center wanted endorsed by over 90 African civil society organizations (CSOs) attending the forum.
TASAM wondered why the civil societies made much fuss, rejected the declaration and forced the convenors to go back to the drawing table when the AU had endorsed it, several months earlier.It was because the whole process was a top-down approach.
“If we are going to be used as rubber stamps for a document that was agreed on long time ago, then this is not the spirit of partnership,” said Undule Mwakasungula, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (Malawi.)
“Who are these AU CSOs that approved the document? Was there another Istanbul CSOs forum apart from this one? ” asked Janet Mbene (Executive Director, MWENGO, Zimbabwe)
“The document, however well intentioned, does not feature pertinent issues such as governance, trade, gender and energy discussed in this forum. TASAM should however learn from the uproar to be inclusive and word sensitive. The patnership is one sided. Africa is on the receiving end as Turkey does everything!” said Dr. Matlotleng Patrick Matlou, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Institute of South Africa.
The document clearly didn’t spell out the rules of engagement between Africa and Turkey. For instance, would Turkey maintain the same exploitative order of Africa producing raw materials and importing finished products? What would be the time frame of this engagement- 10 years? 100 years? Would Turkey’s provision of expertise carry on the old order of capital flight through expatriate fees?
Just what did the AU mean by a statement in the document: "African people should be induced to participate in the development and building of their continent…" Which kind of inducement was being reffered to? Was the AU in favour of coercion? Wouldn't this subject Africa to abuse in the name of being “induced”?
The AU ought to spare well intentioned partners of such an embarrassment by being transparent and showing professionalism in handling bilateral relations. It should not sacrifice regional economic alliances and Africa's interests at the altar of individual short term gains. Turkey and the rest of the world are serious- why should Africa be casual?
By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer
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