Turkey woos Africa
The western world seems to be turning its back on Africa, perhaps as a result of the economic slowdown. Whatever the reason, others have stepped in, with the kind of urgency that might be leaving the west rather envious.
One of those that jumped into the fray even before the economic slowed the magnanimity of the western world was China. China offered a kind of cooperation that seemed to suit the African continent just fine; Infrastructure for minerals and other raw materials (case in point the DR Congo). These also came in with their own brand of business which included shipping in loads of their own people who handled everything from construction works to supermarkets to actual street vending in some African countries.
In step the Turks. They seem to have quickly learned from the mistakes of both the western superpowers ant their rivals from China. They are bringing in a different kind of relationships that they have termed partnerships. These, apparently, are needs based and include both technical cooperation and an actual investment in projects and undertakings.
Turkey is no minion. The economy of turkey is three times that of South Africa, the biggest economy in the region with a GDP (official exchange rate) of $813 billion while South Africa stands at $341 billion. Turkey has shown double digit growths in her economy and is currently ranked 18th in the world, with very impressive statistics in the fields of tourism, industry and agriculture and even health in which she is consistently listed in the top ten in the world. As a comparison, the combined GDP of all 5 east African countries stands at a mere $136 billion.
The government of Turkey wishes to deepen the relationship by fostering understanding of each other by sending trade and media delegations both ways (to Turkey and From Turkey). This is an outreach aimed at ensuring there is a clear understanding of each other’s needs to that a solution can be found that would be mutually beneficial.
Last week, a delegation composed of mainly journalists and led by the head of the Uganda Media Centre who also doubles as the government spokesman undertook one such mission. The delegation visited and met with a number of government officials in Ankara, the capital city, and Istanbul the commercial, tourism and business hub.
It was evident to the team from the outset that Turkey is very serious about developing a plan of action for development cooperation with Africa. The team learned that there is already a lot of such cooperation with Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia in the fields of Agriculture, Information, health, industry and construction. For example, Turkey has built a textile plant in Ethiopia that is aimed at export and employs thousands of locals. Turkey has also built some of the biggest hospitals in Africa in Somalia and Juba.
What was really interesting is that Turkey considers itself part of Africa. Many officials interviewed affirmed this link, even giving the example of North Africa once being part of the Ottoman Empire. We were even told that in the southern part of Turkey, there are people that still pledge allegiance to their African roots.
This is the kind of development cooperation that Africa is searching for. A cooperation that is based on a shared heritage, mutual respect and understanding and win-win solutions for the problems faced by all concerned.
While it is true that Turkey has applied to join the European Union and is working towards being accepted through standardization, memoranda and enactment and implementation of rules and procedure, this seems not to have dimmed the enthusiasm for cooperation with Africa.
Locally in East Africa, Turkey is involved with the building in the oil rich region of Western region with the construction of the Kaiso-Tonya road.
We believe the business development cooperation with Turkey can only get bigger and better.
Uganda 26.09 billion
Kenya $62.72 billion
Tanzania $36.62 billion
Rwanda $8.002 billion
Burundi $3.037 billion (2014 est.)