Jean-Jacques Cornish

Turkish president’s latest safari had a different motivation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has wrapped a three-nation East African safari. He’s visited more than  ten  countries on the continent in the past 18 months.

As a burgeoning trading nation, Turkey is understandably seeking new markets.

This time, however, Erdogan was seeking practical and moral support for his battle against the moderate Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

He claims Gulen masterminded a botched coup attempt last year.

The cleric, exiled in the United States unequivocally denies this.

Erdogan no longer represents a country where the ring of cash registers predominates.

a series of terrorist attacks has dragged Turkey down to the level of its troubled neighbours.

The country bridging Europe and Asia has, in fact, become another Middle East trouble spot.

Bent on becoming a stronger executive president, Erdogan is seeking allies more than trading partners.

In Mozambique, he called on his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi to take action against Gulen.

Earlier 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.”

He was referring to African states in which Gulen’s Hizmet movement operates its international network of schools.

With Turkish government support, 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 tried to drum up support for these punitive measures on his African tour.

He wants the Gulen-linked schools in Africa to be closed down, although they are the very educational establishments which are popular with Africa’s middle class.

There are some 20 Turkish schools in the Guinean capital Conakry and they have sprung up all over Africa in recent years. They an affordable alternative to French schools.

The Hizmet movement has decades of experience in supplying quality education domestically.

Erdogan’s children are graduates of Gulen schools, although the Turkish president now contends Gulen’s master plan was to educate needy students and place them in  military and public  service positions with a long-term goal of state capture.

Erdogan either has to supply convincing evidence to back up the allegations he levels against Gulen and offer alternatives, or risk being seen to be imposing on African friends and risking to bilateral relations.

Relations with Tanzania appear stable. 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.
Erdogan’s seeking markets for the small and medium-sized companies have grown in strength in Turkey under his 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 is 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, albeit totally dwarfed by China’s involvement


Enquire about availability for radio, podcasts, reporting or opinion pieces.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.