Infrastructure and Logistics

A diplomatic trip

Why do infrastructures remain in place if they do not perform the functions which compelled their design? If soft infrastructures such as diplomatic trips do not increase bilateral trade volumes, why do they stay on the agenda? Drawing on fieldwork with businesspeople and government representatives attending a Turkish government sponsored diplomatic trip to Algeria, Mauritania and Senegal in 2018, this article makes three points. First, it shows that businesspeople joined diplomatic trips, not necessarily because they were interested in African markets or because they had the necessary expertise to engage in foreign trade, but because they saw them as practical spaces for improving their relations with Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Second, it points to how businesspeople believed that participation in these networks offered “a fast track,” enabling entrepreneurs to acquire wealth quickly. Third, it demonstrates that businesspeople participate not only because they seek involvement in relationships of exchange, but also because they believe in the emergence of a grand Turkey, dominant in international politics. In this context, such infrastructures remain intact not necessarily because they fulfill the promises with which they were started, but because they serve legible pragmatic and ideological purposes for a range of users. Overall, this article documents and analyzes how businesspeople in Turkey conceptualize their existing and future presence in African markets, while providing windows into the repurposing of soft infrastructure.

more articles from

Volume 40 Issue 6

Explore our Topics

Though not an exhaustive list, these are many of the main areas we cover.