Erdogan in Africa: Gulen and trade ties

Feza Girls Secondary School, Dar es Selaam
Feza Girls Secondary School, Dar es Selaam


Date posted: January 25, 2017

Christine Harjes

Ostensibly the Turkish president is seeking support for his anti-Gulen campaign. A more pressing reason for his three nation African tour could be the search for new markets.

In Mozambique, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi to take action against exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for last year’s failed coup in Turkey.  Earlier this week, during a stopover in Tanzania, Erdogan warned at a joint press conference with President John Magufuli  that he has evidence “that those elements who tried to topple our government are active in other countries as well.”


Erdogan wants the Gulen-linked schools in Africa to be closed down, yet they are the very educational establishments which are popular with Africa’s middle class. They are an inexpensive alternative to French schools. If parents send their children to Turkish schools, it is not because the schools are Turkish, but because they employ good teachers. Africa’s middle class want good schools.


“Other countries” was a reference to African states in which Gulen’s Hizmet movement operates its international network of schools. These establishments have helped to spread Turkish culture and influence abroad. Since the attempted coup in July 2016, however, the Turkish government has been mounting a crackdown on Gulen’s operations. Erdogan is trying to drum up support for these punitive measures on his five day African tour.

Erdogan wants the Gulen-linked schools in Africa to be closed down, yet they are the very educational establishments which are popular with Africa’s middle class. They are an inexpensive alternative to French schools, Ibrahamia Bano Barry, a sociologist at the University of Sonfonia in Guinea, told DW. “If parents send their children to Turkish schools, it is not because the schools are Turkish, but because they employ good teachers. Africa’s middle class want good schools,” he said.


Related News:

Tanzania dismisses Turkish gov’t allegations concerning Feza schools, asks for proof


There are some 20 Turkish schools in the Guinean capital Conakry and they have sprung up all over Africa in recent years.  Efforts to spread Turkish cultural values and educational standards are therefore said to be closely linked to Gulen and his operations. Ufuk Tepebas from  the Center for African Studies at the University of Basel in Switzerland believes that Erdogan should tread carefully. “The Turkish government should follow a careful and patient strategy,” he told DW. Erdogan will have to supply convincing evidence to back up the allegations he levels against Gulen and offer alternatives, if he is to win over his African partners, he said. “Otherwise some African countries may perceive this as an imposition and this constitutes a risk to bilateral relations.”

New markets

Relations with Tanzania do not appear to have suffered. President Magufuli has asked Turkey for loans and investment for the construction of a rail link from Dar es Salaam to Zambia. It will connect Tanzania to Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project has been put out to tender and a Turkish construction company has a good chance of clinching the deal. Other donor countries pulled out of Tanzania following a corruption scandal there in 2015.

Kristian Brakel from the Istanbul branch of Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation believes that Turkey’s economic interests are the chief reason for Erdogan’s African tour. “Turkey is looking for new markets for its small and medium-sized firms,” he said. The anti-Gulen offensive is a relatively minor affair. “Turkey is putting enormous pressure on its African partners, but that is not the primary objective of this visit even though the press often interprets it as such.” In the medium and long term, Turkey wants to find a substitute for markets in the Middle East, such as Syria and Iraq, Brakel said.

Small and medium-sized companies have grown in strength in Turkey under Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They belong to what is referred to in Turkey as the “devout trading class” which supports the AKP. Erdogan, in turn, is seeking openings in Africa on their behalf. “Erdogan is not targeting specific markets so much as raising Turkey’s profile in the region. He is, however, looking for a foothold in markets that could become more interesting in the future. The market for Turkey’s construction industry in Africa is promising, and the Tanzanian rail project comes at a fortuitous time. But Turkey’s involvement in Africa is far removed from the huge scale of China’s engagement on the continent. “I get the impression that Erdogan and his grovernment are making a point of trumpeting their involvement in Africa,” Brakel said. “There is a lot of noise, but little in the way of real substance.”

Erdogan visits Madagascar on Wednesday before returning home.

Abu-Bakarr Jalloh contributed to this report

Source: Deutsche Welle , January 26, 2017


Related News

Amnesty laments treatment of Turkey purge victims

Those who believe they were wrongfully sacked can apply to a special commission to have their case reviewed and either be reinstated or compensated. The commission has “failed to uphold international standards and is acting as a de facto rubber stamp for the initial flawed decisions,” Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s Turkey strategy and research manager, said.

A Different Kind of Coup? Why You Should Care About A “Reclusive” Turkish Imam in Pennsylvania

We should consider not only what people say about Fethullah Gülen, but what he says himself. Decades of speeches and publications make this possible and reveal certain attributes. For example, Gülen advocates a form of Sufi humanism. He seeks collaborative relationships across religious, cultural, and national borders. He is concerned about the poor and marginalized around the world.

Refugees from Erdogan’s Turkey seek to make a new life in Germany

Murat spent six months in a Turkish prison, followed by a considerable time in hiding after his release. As soon as he could, he made good his escape to Germany. As a trained lawyer and legal adviser to an influential association, he had a good life in his home country, living with his family in an upmarket area.

‘Gulenists’ talk about finding a safe haven in Kosovo

Thousands of Turkish nationals, including Gulenists, opposition members, and minorities, fled Turkey and scattered throughout the globe, particularly in Europe and the US; some educators and civil servants with actual or alleged ties to the transnational religious Gulenist movement fled to Kosovo.

Turkish schools are selected best high schools in Mongolia

Mongolia selected the bests of 2012. Turkish schools that have served in the country for 18 years took the first place among high schools. The world wide Turkish schools, which are founded by philanthropists, keep being popular. The Turkish schools in Mongolia were founded in 1994.  More than 3000 students have graduated so far. Students […]

Somalia agrees Turkey’s anti-Gülen crackdown, Kenya, Germany and Indonesia resist

In Kenya, where Gulen’s Omeriye Foundation has grown from its first school in 1998 in the vast Nairobi slum of Kibera to a nationwide network of academies, the government has resisted pressure to close them down. Turkish officials have requested Kenya to shut down the Gulenist schools on a number of occasions before the attempted coup.

Latest News

Crimes Against Humanity in Erdogan’s Turkey

Exiled journalist warns of a genocide in the making in newly released book

Vague terrorism charge used to target supporters of the Gülen movement: UN special rapporteurs

ECtHR urges Albania not to deport Gülen follower to Turkey

Woman detained over links to Gülen movement after giving birth

Formerly Gülen-linked schools in Albania face growing gov’t pressure

Exclusive: Turkey, Kosovo violated fundamental rights of expelled teachers, UN body says

Sacked policeman’s grim death sparks debate on COVID-19 data in Turkish prisons

Dissidents of the Turkish government are living in fear in Canada

In Case You Missed It

Turkey coup and Fethullah Gülen: Why blame a progressive Islamic modernist?

Ambassadors back Gulen schools in Asia

Ebru TV telethon collects nearly $800,000 for victims of Turkey quake

Turkey’s spying imams also active in Norway: monitoring group

455 water wells opened in Pakistan thanks to Kimse Yok Mu

Gulenists dismissed, purged, and tortured: Canadian Immigration Board

‘Hizmet Movement is teaching “habits of the heart”, without any request for payback’

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News