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Turkey’s Influence on the Rising Anti-Colonial Sentiment in West Africa


The rising anti-colonial sentiment in West Africa has been significantly influenced by Turkey’s long-standing anti-imperialist stance and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s famous motto “The world is bigger than five,” according to Professor Enver Arpa, Director of the Regional Studies Institute of Ankara Social Sciences University.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Professor Arpa shed light on the anti-colonial sentiment among the youth in West Africa and emphasized the role of Turkey in challenging ongoing injustices and brutal policies imposed during the colonial period.

President Tayyip Erdogan, in his speeches, has been vocal about the injustices faced by Africa and the marginalization of the continent in international platforms. His slogan, “The world is bigger than five,” carries a deeper meaning than a mere slogan. It reflects Turkey’s commitment to rebelling against the influence of a few powerful countries that can veto decisions and marginalize the voices of African nations and other countries.

One of the main issues highlighted by Professor Arpa is the lack of representation of African countries in international platforms. With 54 nations, Africa should have a significant say in decision-making processes. However, the current structure allows five countries to veto all decisions, undermining the importance and needs of African countries. Turkey’s rebellion against this unjust system has resonated with the youth in West Africa, fueling the anti-colonial sentiment.

Furthermore, Professor Arpa highlighted Turkey’s tangible contributions to the development of Africa. Turkey has not just offered lip service but has actively implemented numerous projects on the continent. Turkish institutes have undertaken various initiatives to support the growth and progress of African countries. These efforts have further boosted Turkey’s credibility and influence among the youth in West Africa, who see Turkey as a partner in their struggle against colonial legacies.

Anti-French sentiments in the region

Turkey's Influence on the Rising Anti-Colonial Sentiment in West Africa
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his visit of Anitkabir, founder of Republic of Turkiye, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum, in Ankara, Turkiye on August 03, 2023 [Murat Kula – Anadolu Agency]
Anti-French sentiments in West Africa have been on the rise in recent years, as the region’s countries such as Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso have become increasingly critical of French neo-colonialism. This sentiment stems from a desire to assert their own independence and sovereignty, as well as a growing disillusionment with France’s role in the region.

One of the key factors contributing to these sentiments is the perception of France as a neo-colonial power. Many West Africans view France’s presence in their countries as a continuation of the colonial era, where the interests of the French government and corporations take precedence over those of the local populations. This sentiment is particularly strong in countries like Mali and Burkina Faso, which were former French colonies.

The new administrations in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have taken a strong stance against France, declaring their intention to unite and fight against French influence in the region if necessary. This unity and determination to confront French neo-colonialism have even led to France having to withdraw its troops from Mali, a significant blow to its influence in the region.

Technology has played a crucial role in fueling the anti-French sentiments among the youth of West Africa. The widespread access to information has allowed the young population to become more aware of both the potential in their own countries and the prosperity enjoyed by other nations. This has led to a desire for self-determination and a rejection of outside interference, including French influence.

France increasingly losing its influence in West Africa

In recent years, France’s influence in West Africa and across the continent has been steadily waning. This decline in influence can be attributed to several factors, including historical colonialism, economic dependence, and the emergence of new global players.

One of the key reasons behind France’s diminishing influence in the region is its history of colonization. France, like many other European powers, colonized a significant portion of Africa, exploiting its resources and subjugating its people. This dark chapter in history has left a lasting impact on the collective psyche of the African nations, particularly the youth. They harbor deep resentment towards France and view it as a symbol of oppression and exploitation. This sentiment, fueled by a sense of injustice, has created a growing rift between France and its former colonies.

Moreover, France’s economic relationship with West Africa has further perpetuated this perception of neo-colonialism. For years, France has relied on African countries, such as Niger, for its uranium supply to fuel its nuclear power plants. While this trade has been beneficial for France, it has done little to alleviate the poverty and underdevelopment in the African nations. The wealth generated from these resources has not been adequately reinvested in the local economies, exacerbating the economic disparities and fueling resentment towards France.

Another factor contributing to France’s declining influence is the emergence of new global players in the region. Russia, for instance, has been gradually stepping into the void left by France. Through its Wagner forces and energy projects, Russia has been expanding its presence in West Africa, directly challenging France’s dominance. This shift in power dynamics has further weakened France’s position and has made it increasingly nervous about its energy interests in the region.

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