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A Bridge to Africa

The Turkish Businessmen and Manufacturers Confederation (TUSKON) is trying to build bridges between Africa and Turkey.

Twenty ministers, about 40 bureaucrats and more than 500 business executives from 33 African countries are attending meetings organized for this purpose. The high-level participation of countries such as Guinea, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Gabon, Central Africa, Mali, Togo, Mozambique and Ghana, with whom Turkey has not been to establish strong trade and economic relations so far, has attracted attention. The businessmen will also hold meetings during their tour of Anatolian cities after today’s summit in Istanbul.

During the summit, other programs as well as business meetings, economic deals amounting to $2 billion are expected to be finalized. The guests will have the opportunity to visit historical and tourist attractions in Istanbul and Anatolia and also see the economic potential in these places.

As known, the government, eager to make new openings in foreign trade and reach new markets, had declared 2005 the “Year of Africa”. If we exclude the construction services in North Africa, this continent had never been on Turkey’s agenda until a few years ago.

The TUSKON summit carries added importance in this regard and it is a meeting on Africa, with the largest participation, that has been held in Turkey so far. The fruit of the talks and friendships established at this summit will certainly manifest themselves in the upcoming years. Some of them will result in exports, some in imports and others in joint projects.

Trade activities between Turkey and the gigantic African continent, over the years, constitute only a minimal part of Turkey’s total foreign trade volume. Declaring 2005 the “Year of Africa” and initiatives launched before this, increased the trade volume last year by about 25 percent to the $9.7 billion level.

Today, Algeria, with $806 million, tops the list of African countries with whom Turkey trades the most. Egypt is second with $686 million and Libya follows with $384 million. On the other side, in imports, Libya is ahead of the other African countries with $1.984 billion. After Libya, comes Algeria with $1.693 billion, followed by South Africa with $1.260 billion. There is a trade deficit against Turkey in African countries where there is high trade volume. The main reason is energy import.

It is imperative to take the trade volume, which is around $10 billion, to the higher levels. TUSKON President Rizanur Meral said that they plan to increase exports with African countries to the $10 billion level within three years. This amount was $3.6 billion in 2005.

It is not possible to attain these targets by remaining idle. Of course, they can only be accomplished through the building of these kinds of bridges and interaction. Relations will be established on a solid ground through joint efforts in the fields of education, culture and sports. That the Turkish Air Lines (THY) has begun flying to some African countries, is a big step forward. Transportation linkages should be enhanced for mutual trade and joint projects to gather speed.

Not only trade and construction services but also investments that will be made in nearly in all fields with Africa, are of paramount importance. The increase in factories, businesses and educational institutions established by Turkish entrepreneurs over the past three years in many African countries, from the north to the south, have boosted Turkey’s pride.

Turkey’s biggest advantage in this continent is that it has no record of colonialization there. Besides, Turkey has many common historical and cultural bonds with the people of many African countries.

The greatest help that can be rendered to Africa, which is fighting abject poverty and hunger, is perhaps through investments that will be made and joint efforts that will be realized in this continent.

KADIR DIKBAS

05.11.2006 Thursday - ISTANBUL 12:17
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