In the 1800s, Henry Dunant, the founding father of the Red Cross, took the humanitarian principles of the law of war adopted by Emir Abdelkader, who fought the French colonial occupation of Algeria.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which laid the foundations for humanitarian aid, evolved from African lands. These activities have a history of keeping human dignity alive.
In the later stages of history, the Egyptian Red Crescent assisted refugees during the Balkan War. Ottoman Red Crescent branches in cities such as Johannesburg in South Africa and Harar, in eastern Ethiopia, showed many examples of material and moral solidarity with Istanbul. If we omitted Turkiye’s humanitarian perspective from this past, it would be incomplete.
During the 1911 Battle of Tripoli, Libya, Red Crescent officers tried to heal the wounds with volunteers in Africa. During the last two decades, Turkiye has displayed a serious, consistent, and integrated approach to Africa.
Humanitarian aid and solidarity are one of the most important components of the expansion. Successful efforts have been made in many areas such as emergency aid for drought-related famine disasters, addressing problems in accessing water resources, providing access to basic healthcare services, and establishing institutions that will strengthen social resilience.
Collaboration efforts, especially in the field of education, continue to help human development projects. With its airline network covering almost the entire African continent, Turkiye offers a strong logistical advantage for humanitarian aid efforts. The Turkish model developed for Africa, of course, does not yet have strong traditions.
However, the perspective, which is based on peace and in the interests of the societies, is welcomed by many sectors. The activities carried out by Turkish institutions such as the Red Crescent, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), and the Maarif Foundation provide effective and sustainable humanitarian aid efforts.
Reinforcing Turkiye’s soft power
It is important to draw attention to the topics that determine the basic character of Turkiye's humanitarian aid efforts toward Africa. During the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, it has become traditional for Turkish aid groups to reach the most remote areas.
In addition to reinforcing Turkiye's soft power, it provides the opportunity for Africa to again encounter Turkiye. Turkiye has seen for itself that there are various societies in different parts of Africa that do not fit into a single definition. People in different parts of Africa have seen the difference between Turkiye and Europe's colonial past.
Turkiye has shown that its presence in Africa is a permanent one. With the institutions that it has opened and the development of local capacity, it has shown faith in the future of Africa. A peace-building and humanitarian perspective that does not stuck in aid packages correctly completed the perception of Turkiye, especially in sub-Sahara Africa.
Turkiye did not display a humanitarian approach for the sake of religious ties alone. It continues to embrace an approach based on mutual respect with communities of different faiths and ethnicities.
Twenty years of accelerated experience offers positive indicators in terms of solidarity and strengthening societies, but the environmental and security problems facing the continent require cooperation on a larger scale. Innovative projects can be developed for to promote peace and sustainable development with new coalitions to be established by humanitarian aid institutions.
Africa is an important player in the future of humanitarian aid and demands that a future should be built. Many of the problems that humanity inherited 100 years ago were applied specifically to Africa.
Africa has not abandoned its human dignity despite all the difficulties it has experienced. Today, it has the human power to set an example for the whole world. As Turkish society got to know Africa, it started to boost civil initiatives and activities on the continent.
At the same time, Africa’s presence in Turkiye is also growing every day. The number of African-origin employees and managers in Turkish humanitarian aid organizations is rising. Later, these skilled figures work to bring back their experiences to their own countries.
African students who get education in various areas with Turkish scholarships offer the African perspective with the experiences they have gained in the Turkish public and private sectors. This human infrastructure, which provides a deep ground for collaborations to be developed, can also provide a unique opportunity to reverse the brain drain for the continent, which is facing human resource erosion.
Making a special flight to Sierra Leone in 2017, a Turkish Airlines plane suddenly turned into an aid plane by using its cargo capabilities when it got news of a landslide. And during the coronavirus pandemic, Turkiye supplied vaccine and medical supplies to Africa by establishing an “air bridge.”
As logistics opportunities increase, many African countries will build a beneficial future for themselves and the rest of the world with humanitarian aid cooperation. When the suffering of people who had to leave their homes due to natural and human disasters ends, Africa will build a strong new future with its invaluable human resources.
Hope, brotherhood, and confidence
As a friend of Africa who stands with it in difficult times, Turkiye will help make societies stronger with its institutions. Every plane that goes from Istanbul to Africa also carries hope, brotherhood, and confidence in the future of Africa.
Work in the field will continue to grow, and policies focusing on the main problems at diplomatic desks will be strengthened in the coming days.
If Henry Dunant and Emir Abdelkader had seen the dimensions of the humanitarian cooperation between Turkiye and Africa today, they would be inspired by brand-new ideas. Turkiye and African countries are like old friends who are still getting to know each other better, with new pages added to their friendship book every day.
AA/Halil Ibrahim Izgi