Selim Bora had never been south of the Sahara before the call came to design and build the conference centre for an African Union summit in just six months.
But a week later the 43-year-old Turkish businessman was in Equatorial Guinea. Summa, his family-owned company, managed to construct the 13,000-square-metre complex in time for the 2011 AU summit in Malabo.
“We had no clue about the country when we went there,” Mr Bora says. “We had to figure it all out.”
His story is part of a concerted push by Turkey deep into Africa, as it follows China, Brazil and India in seeking to secure economic and political influence on the continent. As Ankara looks to diversify away from the stuttering European economy, it is searching not only for new markets but also a more prominent role on the world stage.
In the past three years, Turkey has opened 19 embassies on the continent. It now has 26 south of the Sahara and will have opened delegations in Chad, Guinea and Djibouti by the end of January, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister, visits Gabon, Niger and Senegal.
Turkish officials identify Somalia, where the country has established a large presence, as a measure of their commitment. Mr Erdogan became in 2011 the first non-African leader in almost two decades to visit Somalia. “The aim is to develop ties, to close gaps, to go to places where we have never been,” says a Turkish official
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