The first leg of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to three African countries concluded in Sudan Monday. Today, the delegation led by Erdoğan will be in Chad, followed by a visit to Tunisia.
There are deep historical ties between Turkey and much of Africa. Erdoğan's visits to African countries in recent years aim to nurture commercial ties, but they are an opportunity to revive the long dormant political and cultural ties with the continent's countries. More importantly, they are an essential step to challenge perception of the continent long tainted by colonialism.
African countries have long suffered from the perception that they have nothing but famine, hunger, disease and poverty. The poisonous legacy of colonialism continues to weigh heavily, still standing as the main obstacle to progress and proper use of the continent's abundant human and natural resources.
The current world order has not allowed these countries sufficient breathing space to tap into their resources to build a sound infrastructure that would facilitate progress.
There is no place for those who underestimate the potential of Africa or disrespect its people, but humanitarian motives remain the center of Turkey's efforts. Africans need to decide the continent's future, and to contribute to that future, there are positive developments happening across the continent of which Turkey wants to be part.
Erdoğan is usually the first president of the Republic of Turkey to visit these countries. Sudan is no different. When Sudan gained its independence in 1956, Turkey was one the first countries to open an embassy in Khartoum.
Turkey's much-lauded African initiative continues to break new ground. Just recently, the number of Turkish embassies in Africa increased to 39. The Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) has launched joint economic councils with 38 of its African counterparts. Today, there is $300 million of Turkish direct investment in the country and bilateral trade is close to $500 million.
Turkey's leading nongovernmental organizations are also active in important philanthropic projects across Sudan. Turkey's Yunus Emre Institution opened a branch in Khartoum in 2016, bridging two countries' cultures while Turkih Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) is in close cooperation with locals in Sudan.
Photographs from Sudan clearly show, plain and simple, how loved and respected Erdoğan is in Africa. The principled diplomatic stance taken by the government on many issues over the years, combined with Turkey's decade-long African initiative and humanitarian imprint across the continent are the cause behind Ankara's influence there.
Turkey has also taken a stance specifically for Sudan, protecting it against systematic efforts to isolate it. As growing economies, Turkey and Sudan have much to offer each other and there should be tangible steps taken to expand ties to cover culture and society.
Turkey's efforts are welcomed by Sudanese authorities, which have responded positively to Erdoğan's call for cooperation to tackle Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) schools in the country. Sudan did not let its society become a tool of sinister multinational groups that continue to plot against Sudan. FETÖ, just like what it did in Turkey, tried to brainwash young Sudanese to use against the state for its own purposes. Thanks to the effective partnership between Turkey and Sudan, the FETÖ threat in there is largely eliminated. Other African countries that responded positively to Erdoğan's call on FETÖ have also benefited.
Increased cooperation, commercial, cultural and social ties, brotherhood and common purpose will ensure past problems remain in the past. As one Sudanese proverb says, whatever the duration of the night, the sun will rise.