Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour of Africa seems to have paid off, as the energy minister of Chad announced an agreement to bring Turkish investors into his country’s oil market on Thursday.
“We signed joint agreements on hydrocarbon fields with my counterpart [Turkish Energy Minister Berat] Albayrak and we will welcome Turkish companies to extract oil and energy resources in our country. I believe we can increase the use of our underground sources with the help of our brother, Turkey,” said Chad’s Petroleum and Energy Minister Bechir Madet, as quoted by Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.
“I have no doubt that the two countries will be very profitable in economic terms in accordance with the ‘win-win’ model. I have a map of Chad’s oil reserves. Even today, if demanded, we would immediately start production and export of petroleum through Turkish firms,” Madet said.
“I invite Turkish companies to come and invest here. I promise to provide them with every kind of convenience and support. They can start to produce electricity immediately,” he added.
Erdogan also visited Sudan while he was in Africa, and likewise seems to have found a receptive environment for further Turkish investment. The Turkish president expressed a desire to double Turkey’s $500 million trade volume with Sudan as quickly as possible, and then increase it tenfold.
Turkey opened its first African military base in Somalia in September, and a Turkish company is presently working on a major railroad project in Ethiopia and Tanzania. Turkey was swift to provide assistance when over 300 people were killed by a car bomb attack in Mogadishu in October.
“With more than three dozen embassies and billions of dollars in trade, Turkey has quietly built strong ties across Africa over the past decade,” Voice of America observed in November, arguing that Erdogan has made Africa “a centerpiece of his foreign policy.”
Part of that policy involves Erdogan using his leverage with various African states to shut down schools opened by his archenemy Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish government accuses Gulen of masterminding the July 2016 coup against Erdogan and using his worldwide network of Islamic schools to recruit and finance a subversive cult. In happier times, Gulen was a major ally of Erdogan’s, and his network of schools was supported by the government as a means of spreading Turkish influence and Islamic theology in Africa.
“So far, Erdogan’s requests have worked. At least six governments in Africa have complied with his demands to shutter the schools, despite their popularity,” VOA reports.
Middle East Eye speculated in August that Erdogan’s interest in Africa is part of his fascination with rebuilding the Ottoman Empire, which had a significant presence in places like Somalia. He may also be looking to checkmate the expanding African influence of regional rivals like the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as European influence.
“If you were to think of any one country that should be present in Africa, that country would be Turkey. The anomaly was the 20th century when we were largely absent from the continent and the western Europeans stepped in,” Ahmet Kavas, an adviser to the Turkish prime minister’s office, told Middle East Eye. Kavas happens to be Turkey’s former ambassador to Chad.