TURKEY'S BLUSHING BRIDE?
2008 August 4
Classified By: POL Counselor Daniel O'Grady, for reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) Summary: For Turkey, sub-Saharan Africa represents an opportunity to expand its international influence and advance its multilateral ambitions, foremost a UNSC non-permanent member seat. Since announcing its UNSC candidacy in 2003, the GOT has overtly wooed African states in the hopes of winning their support, with mixed results. Some nations resent the GOT's perceived bullying and lack of regional understanding while others welcome the attention. Nevertheless, few nations have confirmed attendance at the upcoming GOT-initiated Turkey-Africa Union Istanbul Summit August 19-21 and even fewer have committed to sending high-level representation. Regardless of GOT ambitions, the Turkish business community takes a much longer view of its relationship with Africa and is pressuring the Government to adopt a more substantive approach. This is the second of two cables examining Turkey's growing ties to the region. End Summary. Eyes on the Prize: UNSC Seat ----------------------------
2. (C) The GOT's primary interest in sub-Saharan Africa is garnering wide support for its 2009-2011 non-permanent UNSC seat bid, a goal it has not sought to hide. Since declaring its candidacy in 2003, the GOT has heavily publicized each of its outreach initiatives ranging from naming 2005 the Turkey's 'Year of Africa' to announcing its decision to open 10 new African missions in 2008 and hosting the upcoming Turkey-African Union (AU) Istanbul Summit August 19-21 (reftels). South African Embassy Counselor Sarel van Zyl told us the GOT has placed immense pressure on the SAG to "tell" other African nations to vote for Turkey in October. This and other incidents like it, argued van Zyl, demonstrates the GOT's general naivet when approaching the region. Turkey's wooing of Africa, however, has not gone completely unappreciated. Ethiopian Embassy Financial Attach Teramed Adane stated that the increased attention makes his country feel like "a blushing bride."
3. (C) With its focus on the UNSC seat, the GOT has placed heavy emphasis on securing the African vote at the Turkey-AU Summit. South African Embassy First Secretary Rene Everson-Varney told us that when the GOT initially proposed the event, the AU asked Turkey to invite only a small delegation of AU representatives. Hoping for a wider audience, the GOT insisted on full representation and sent invitations to all AU heads-of-state. MFA officials report that few African governments have confirmed their participation or provided information on their delegations' composition; MFA Africa Section Chief Aykut Kumbaroglu noted the GOT expects foreign minister participation at a minimum.
Everson-Varney reported the SAG has yet to make a decision, but was leaning toward sub-minister representation. When Turkey's premier businessmen's association the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) invited African trade ministers and top CEOs to a recently announced Turkey-Africa conference to be held simultaneously with the Summit in Istanbul, however, it significantly increased the pressure to send their foreign minister, lamented Everson-Varney. New Horizons, New Markets --------------------------
4. (C) Regardless of the UNSC seat, the Turkish economy has a long-term stake in good relations with sub-Saharan Africa (ref c). The 9th Annual Development Plan for 2007-2013 states the GOT should focus on Africa as a target market to increase demand for Turkish goods and services. Everson-Varney added that Africa is key to Turkey reaching its goal of becoming one of the top ten global economies by 2023. Led by the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON), Turkish small to medium businesses have made significant inroads into the continent's construction, engineering, textiles, and consumer goods markets. Since 2006, TUSKON has held an annual Turkey-Africa Trade Bridge conference in Istanbul drawing representatives from over 45 African counties (ref c). Kumbaroglu noted Turkish businessmen are struggling to compete with their ANKARA 00001384 002 OF 002 Chinese and Indian counterparts, who already have well-established communities in Africa that give them an inherent market advantage. Because of this, Turkish businessmen are putting increasing pressure on the GOT to become more substantively active in the region.
5. (C) As the Turkish business community enteres new locations, it establishes its own cultural institutions, such as private Turkish schools. More than 50 Turkish schools across Africa (primarily in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa) provide a high-quality math and science-based education in Turkish, English, and the local language. Unlike the Turkish schools in Central Asia where a majority of students are Turkish expatriates, the local children constitute nearly half the student body. In some African nations, local business leaders' and government officials' children attend as well. Everson-Varney noted the Turkish business community has also opened schools in many of South Africa's poorest neighborhoods. Without providing funding or official affiliation, the GOT indirectly supports the Turkish schools as a means of promoting Turkey abroad. For example, the Turkish International Development Agency (TIKA) donated a computer laboratory to the Necase Ethiopian Turkish School and GOT officials traditionally visit the schools when traveling in Africa. Gulenist Factor ---------------
6. (C) The Islam-oriented Fetullah Gulen Movement plays a noteworthy role in Turkey's private sector African activities. As Gulenist leader Ali Yurtsever explained on Fetullah Gulen's web page, "In Africa, businessmen from Turkey who are part of the Movement go to a country and start a business... then start a school. The core group may also open an interfaith center, or Gulen may advise them to start a cultural center." These businessmen also derive support from other reportedly Gulenist-oriented organizations such as TUSKON. The Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM), which also has reported ties to the Movement, is hosting a Turkish-African NGO Forum in Istanbul August 14-16 one week prior to the Turkey-AU Summit. Comment -------
7. (C) In spite of a long history in the Maghreb, the Turkish Government has jumped into the deep-end of sub-Saharan African politics without a full understanding of the region or a functional strategy beyond its UNSC bid. The July 18 communiqu following the MFA Ambassadors' Conference addressed Africa in the context of achieving other goals, a slight that was not lost on Ankara's African missions. Although Turkey's foreign policy apparatus views Africa as a means to an end, the business community has an interest beyond the October vote. However, to prove its sincerity, the GOT now faces the challenge of transitioning from summer romance to serious suitor. Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey