Turkish-African Relations at the aftermath of the Summit of August 2008

Comment

As is known, Turkey was accepted as one of the strategic partners of Africa at the 12th ordinary meeting of the Executive Council of African Union which was held in Addis Ababa between 25-29 of January 2008. If we consider the fact that only countries such as People’s Republic of China, Japan, South Korea and India have been previously deemed as strategic partners of the Organisation before, the importance of the qualification that Africa has granted Turkey becomes quite meaningful....

As is known, Turkey was accepted as one of the strategic partners of Africa at the 12th ordinary meeting of the Executive Council of African Union which was held in Addis Ababa between 25-29 of January 2008. If we consider the fact that only countries such as People’s Republic of China, Japan, South Korea and India have been previously deemed as strategic partners of the Organisation before, the importance of the qualification that Africa has granted Turkey becomes quite meaningful.

Both as a natural consequence of the new nature of Turkish-African relations as well as the “acquis“ of the Turkish policy of opening-up to Africa which has been implemented ever since 1998, the first Turkish-African Summit of Heads of State and Government was held in İstanbul on 18-21 August 2008.
9 cooperation areas were agreed upon in this Summit which has been attended by 49 African countries, at the level of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs or Ambassador.
These were namely:


1) Intergovernmental Cooperation;
2) Trade and Investment;
3) Agriculture, Agribusiness, Rural Development, Water Resources Management and Small
and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs);
4) Health;
5) Peace and Security;
6) Infrastructure: Energy and Transport;
7) Culture, Tourism and Education;
8) Media and Information and Communication Technology;
9) Environment;

There has been a lot of mutual official contacts between Turkey and Africa during the 9 months period following the İstanbul Summit. These contacts have chronologically been performed in this order:

October 2008:

11-17 October 2008: Visit of H.E. Mr. Peter Soita Shitanda, Minister of Housing of Kenya, to Turkey;

14-17 October 2008: Visit of H.E. Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba, Minister of National Defence of Gabon, to Turkey;

November 2008:

4 November 2008: Political consultations held in Ankara between H.E. Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, Deputy Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and H.E. Mr. Benson Ogutu, Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya;

December 2008:

29-31 December 2008: Visit of H.E. Mr. Teshome Toga, Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, to Turkey.

January 2009

6-9 January 2009: A Sudan Parliamentary delegation led by the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly of Sudan H.E. Mr. Osman Khalid Mudawi visited Turkey;

6-9 January 2009: The Minister of Transport of the Turkish Republic H.E. Mr. Binali Yıldırım visited Ethiopia at the occasion of the 5th Turkey-Ethiopia Joint Economic Commission meeting;

15-18 January 2009: State visit paid by H.E. Mr. İsmail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, to Turkey;

21-23 January 2009: The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Botswana H.E. Mr. Phandu Skelemani visited Turkey;

22 January 2009: Consultation meeting held in Ankara under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Mr. Ertuğrul Apakan with the African Ambassadors accredited to Turkey (African Ambassadors were received in audience by the President of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Mr. Abdullah Gül on the same day and the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Ali Babacan hosted a dinner in the honour of the Ambassadors);


February 2009:

3 February 2009: Visit paid to Turkey by H.E. Mr. Ali Osman Muhammed Taha, Vice- President of the Republic of Sudan;

8-10 February 2009: Visit paid to Turkey by H.E. Mr. Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia;

20-23 February 2009: State visits paid by H.E. Mr. Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey to Kenya and Tanzania;

26 February 2009: Political Consultations held between Turkey and Uganda in Ankara (under the co-chairmanship of H.E. Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, Deputy Under-Secretary of the M.F.A. of the Republic of Turkey and H.E. Mr. Oryem Henry Okello, State Minister at the M.F.A. of the Republic of Uganda;

March 2009:

26 March 2009: Political Consultations held between Turkey and Tanzania in Ankara (under the co-chairmanship of the Deputy Under-Secretary of the M.F.A. of the Turkish Republic, Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Tanzania, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi);

30 March 2009: Political Consultations held between Turkey and the Republic of South Africa in Pretoria (under the co-chairmanship of the Deputy Under-Secretary of the M.F.A. of the Republic of Turkey, Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, and the Deputy Under-Secretary of the M.F.A. of the Republic of South Africa;


April 2009:

17-19 April 2009: State visit paid to Turkey by the President of the Republic of Somalia Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

As it can be seen, four of these mutual visits have been realized at presidential level. Meanwhile, the official visit to Turkey of the President of Benin, H.E. Mr. Boni Yayi, which had been initially scheduled to take place between the dates of 8-10 April 2009, was postponed in extremis for technical reasons.
Trade between Turkey and African countries has been following a dynamic route in recent years.

For example, while mutual trade volume was 5,5 billion US dollars in 2003, this amount raised to 13 billion dollars in 2007 and 17,3 billion dollars in 2008.

As of the first three months of 2009, the level of our exports to African countries was 2,9 billion dollars and our imports 1,4 billion dollars. In other words, the trade volume between Turkey and Africa amounted to 4,3 billion dollars for the above-mentioned period. In spite of the global economic and financial crisis that has adversely affected the whole world, it is possible to estimate that our trade volume with the African continent will reach in 2009 the level of 2008, meaning that a certain stability is being maintained.

Within this respect, I would also like to emphasize the important role of the “Turkey-World Trade Bridge Programme“ that will be organized between 1-7 June 2009 in İstanbul by the Turkish businessmen and Industrialists Confederation (TUSKON). We expect many African businessmen and Ministers of Trade to attend this important gathering which has been regularly organized over the past years, providing thus trade relations between Turkey and African countries with a new impetus.

Esteemed participants,
In recent years, an increase in the Turkish direct investments in African countries has been registered even if these investments are still on a small scale.
Indeed, while in 2000 only 24 Turkish contractor companies invested 20.661.167 US dollars in Africa, today Turkish investments in African countries involving 171 Turkish companies have reached the level of 417.882.158 dollars by 31 March of 2009.

The largest part of these investments went to North African countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Algeria while in Sub-Saharan African countries Turkish investments focus mainly on countries like Sudan, Ethiopia and the Republic of South Africa.

On the other hand, we notice with great satisfaction that Turkish contractor companies undertake more and more infrastructural projects in Africa.

The Turkish construction sector has been so far involved in 24,6 billion US dollars worth projects in 16 African countries between the years 1972 and 2008, a large part of these projects (22,9 billion dollars) being carried out in North African countries (Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt) while the remaining part has been implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia and Nigeria).

If we consider the fact that by the end of 2007, the respective figures were 21,6 billion and 800 million dollars, we can see that in 2008 Turkish contractor companies have undertaken 1,3 billion dollars worth additional projects in North African countries and 900 million dollars valued projects in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Esteemed participants,


I am sure that everyone shall concede the vital role of agriculture in ensuring food security in Africa. Thus, as I have already mentioned it at the outset, agriculture has been selected as one of the primary cooperation areas at the Turkish-African İstanbul Summit.

The Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), moving ahead with this consideration, started to implement the “Programme for Support of Agriculture“ involving 13 African countries last year. The second stage of this project, with a budget of 12 million US dollars and covering a period of three years (2008-2010), is still being implemented (11 May-19 June 2009) in Turkey with the participation of 12 African countries.

Considering the fact that transport plays an important role in the development of political, economic, commercial and cultural relations between Turkey and African countries, Turkish Airlines (THY) is trying currently to further develop its network of communication with African countries. Thus, apart the already existing scheduled flights to North African countries and cities such as Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg and Lagos, THY has recently added Nairobi and Dakar flights to its network. İstanbul-Nairobi flights were inaugurated on 20 February 2009, while İstanbul-Dakar-Sao Paulo itinerary was initiated on 10 May 2009. This latter flight service will also contribute to the development of relations between Turkey and Latin America.

Esteemed participants,

Within the framework of our relations with Africa, education is another area of cooperation to which we attach the utmost importance. Turkey believes that the promotion of education will both contribute to the development of man power resources in Africa and create a bridge of friendship between Turkey and African countries. Thus, Turkey has steadily increased the quota of Government scholarships provided to African countries for the purpose of high education over recent years. In fact, while the number of scholarships provided by Turkey to 48 African countries for the academic year 2003-2004 was 217, this number was raised to 355 for the academic year 2008-2009.

In the planning of 2009-2010 quotas, we have decided to add 318 new scholarships to the already available ones.

The Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) which operates in Africa through three regional offices (Addis Ababa, Khartoum and Dakar), is supporting the development efforts of African countries especially in the fields of health, education and agriculture since 2005.

The value of the technical assistance provided by TİKA to 37 African countries has reached 15,5 million US dollars by the end of 2008. The value of the projects carried out by TİKA in Senegal, which amounts to 831.271 Euro, should also be added to this figure.

Esteemed participants,


Without any doubt, besides the governmental involvement an important role falls on the civil society organizations in the development of relations between Turkey and Africa.

In this respect, I would like to pay a special tribute to the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM), for its most valuable work in this domain.

As is known, the Turkish-African Civil Society Organizations Forum was held on 14-16 August 2008 in İstanbul by TASAM right before the Turkish-African Heads of State and Government Summit.

This Forum led to the İstanbul Declaration which covers a rich programme.

Especially, the decision to establish an International Non-Governmental Organisations and Cooperation Platform (USTKIP) within the framework of Turkish and African CSO’s Forum is indeed a very important undertaking. We welcome with a great satisfaction the creation of a website which will operate in 4 languages (Turkish, Arabic, English and French) within the Platform.

I would also like to welcome the recent creation within Ankara University of the Center For African Studies. We expect this center to make a valuable contribution to the promotion of Turkish-African relations by creating an awareness in the Turkish public opinion as well as academic circles concerning African affairs and problems.


Esteemed participants,

My aforementioned comments should, however, not give the impression of a picture of perfection.

The Turkish- African strategic partnership will be at the same time a difficult process.

Some exceptional circumstances such as the current global economic crisis which affects the whole world can indeed cause some bottlenecks in Turkish-African relations. We must therefore be patient and realist.

As you know, in accordance with Article 6 of the “Implementation and Follow-up Mechanism“ foreseen in the “Framework of Cooperation for Africa-Turkey Partnership“ enclosed to the İstanbul Declaration, we shall have to develop a concrete and detailed activity programme before August 2009.

On the other hand, a Turkish-African Senior Officials meeting will be held in 2010.

We hope that the relevant agencies of both Turkey and African countries shall soon complete their institutional set-up so as to implement these important and forthcoming activities in due course.

The most important is to maintain the spirit of cooperation which led to the İstanbul Summit. I am firmly convinced that the mutual trust and confidence that exist between Turkey and Africa shall enable us to overcome every sort of difficulties.


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