Yesterday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan headed to Africa. His first stop will be to attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in South Africa. Turkey has been invited to the summit despite not being a member of the organization because Turkey is the term president of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
This is Erdoğan's first Africa visit following his electoral victory in the June 24 elections. Between the years of 2014 and 2018, during which he served as the president in the old governmental system, Erdoğan visited a total of 20 African countries.
Turkey's Africa initiative launched in 2005 has turned into a noteworthy investment. In this sense, we are talking about a considerable investment in Africa aside from the initiative.
The rising export volume to Africa, which increased by 24.7 percent this year compared to 2017, is enough to illustrate the importance Turkey attaches to the continent.
However, Turkey's Africa investment has not only been marked by the increase in trade capacity. Turkey has so far made important investments in the continent by opening new channels of cultural diplomacy and opening military bases in regions of geostrategic significance. The investments are ongoing.
Another reason for Turkey's recent focus on Africa is the remaining presence of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the region. During his visits to Africa, Erdoğan placed special emphasis on Turkey's anti-FETÖ agenda and asked his addressees not to tolerate FETÖ members in their territories. In the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt, a large number of FETÖ militants fled to various African countries.
Erdoğan is dedicated to capturing the militants and eliminating FETÖ hideouts in Africa. South Africa is a crucial country in this mission. We know that senior FETÖ operatives are in South Africa, and FETÖ is controlling many illegal activities and networks in the country. We expect the president to take some important steps in the fight against FETÖ during this visit.
Ankara has been tracking militants who fled to different parts of the world while taking major steps to purge the terrorist elements in Syria. It is important to note that Turkey's counterterror fight did not extend beyond its national borders until two years ago.
Erdoğan will also meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in South Africa independent of the BRICS summit. Increasing cooperative initiatives between Russia and Turkey and resolving past disputes are topics that are expected to be discussed during the meeting. Erdoğan will head to Zambia after finishing his visit in South Africa.
As Erdoğan stressed during Tuesday's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) group meeting, it is important to focus on what Turkey needs, not on what is being said about it. In both domestic and foreign policy, Turkey has prioritized the needs and objectives of our state and society instead of the tasks assigned by the outside world. Erdoğan has successfully explained the country's needs to its citizens, and the nation has given its full support to him.