by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo
Safa Uslu’s discerning article in Insight Turkey’s Spring 2015 issue takes a look at Turkey’s growing relations with Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and how it has used this relationship to find energy resources to boost its economy. As a Ghana native, over the past five or so years I’ve noticed a growing Turkish presence in our country’s capital, Accra. Most of the Turks I’ve come across personally are entrepreneurs -warehouse and restaurant owners- but I had no inkling of Turkey’s hand in Sub-Saharan Africa’s energy scene.
Turkey’s economy is growing and a strong energy sector is crucial to help the country accommodate its economic growth. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it has found a partner brimming with both energy resources and potential that can drive this growth. Domestically, Turkey relies heavily on fossil fuels but lacks natural gas and oil reserves sufficient to meet the economy’s needs, thus needing to import large quantities of oil and natural gas. In 2011 alone, Turkey’s fossil fuel imports accounted for $54.1 billion out of a total budget of $178.8 billion.
Thus from a Turkish perspective, it is a masterstroke of economic and foreign policy, that the Turkish government turned to the African continent to reduce its energy costs. According to the International Energy Agency, SSA possesses 7 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 6 percent of the world’s natural gas resources. With the current fall in oil prices, Turkey’s partnership with these countries is a big win.
Joseph Nye, a Harvard-based political scientist, coined the term ‘soft power,’ which describes the ability to influence others by using cooperative measures to achieve desired outcomes, to persuade and to create a positive impact. It is the tool Turkey has used to build and shore up relationships with SSA, using its historical and cultural connections with these countries as well as numerous humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives geared towards supporting Africa. This mutually beneficial relationship comes with the added promise of trade and offering solutions to the African continent’s long-standing issue of poor energy access and infrastructure.
An arguably concerning aspect of Turkey’s mandate to provide and improve energy access to SSA countries, is its failure to steer the energy potential of these countries towards more renewable and sustainable energy. Meanwhile, Daily Sabah reports that Turkey’s share of renewable energy in its energy-mix is expected to rise to thirty percent by 2023. [http://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2016/01/01/turkey-needs-nuclear-power-plants-and-renewable-energy]
In the mid-term though, you can count on Turkey strengthening its presence in Sub-Saharan Africa and improving its energy sector in the process.
Uslu, Safa. 2015. Turkey’s Energy Diversification Strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Insight Turkey, 17(2). January 23 2015: 101-115