Following the construction of educational bridges, now trade bridges are being built. Twelve thousand working meetings took place during the two-day "Turkey-Africa Foreign Trade Bridge" summit that was organized by the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON).
There were 400 interpreters at the meetings. Who were they? Most of them were graduates from Turkish schools all over the world. Some came from Africa. Some of them came to study at Turkish universities after graduating from Turkish high schools in their respective countries. Isyaku Umar, the general manager of one of the biggest companies in Nigeria, sent his children to Turkish schools. His eldest son is studying computer engineering at Fatih University. The father and son had the opportunity to see each other thanks to the summit, and there were several other similar events.
While trying to explain the importance of Turkish schools and their mission, we had said, "Wait and see what will happen in the next 15-20 years." The trade bridge in Istanbul is a hint of new horizons for Turkey. In his opening speech, Chadian Trade Minister Ngarmbatna Carmel said:
"Westerners came to Africa to take from us but they brought nothing. The only thing we want now is real partnership. For Chad, the Turkish schools are the most important doors to the outside world. They also form the bridge between Turkey and us. "
Central Africa Education Minister Aurelier-Simplice Kongbelet-Zingas said:
"Turkish schools provide our children with education of international standards. Our trade relations with Turkey develop everyday. Turkey is turning its face towards Africa, and Turkish schools are being opened.”
Nigerian Education Commissioner Bello Martan said, "Turkish teachers are excellent models for our children. We want more Turkish schools to be opened in our country," thereby conveying the appreciation of the Nigerian people.
Fethullah Gulen who encourages the opening of these Turkish schools, said:
"If Turkey is not everywhere in the world, it cannot be where it wants."
Besides, who knows how much inherited positivism there is in the subconscious of the nations with whom we have close bonds and what kind of enthusiasm is awakened through these trade relations. African ministers visited the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), the Blue Mosque and Dolmabahce Palace following their Bosporus tour.
The trade minister of Niger said: "I am very happy because I saw the footprints of the Prophet Mohammed. We are also Muslims. We saw the mosques the Ottomans built and they have exerted great influence on us."
We talked with Rizanur Meral, the chairman of TUSKON, that was established by 9,000 mostly young businessmen, on the second day at the meeting hall. I asked about their impressions from the summit. The participants were not very well informed about Turkey previously. Some of them were even mocked and asked, "What are you going to do there?" before coming to Turkey.
However, after the summit the participants said, "We saw that Turkey is an industrialized and developed country. We did not know Turkey before. Now it appears we can continue trade activities in all fields.”
Africa is advancing towards becoming one of the global actors of the 21st century, together with China and India. The African continent appears in the foreground with its 53 countries, an area of 30-million-square kilometers, population amounting to one billion and an estimated gross national product of $850 billion.
State Minister Kursad Tuzmen said he hopes the TUSKON organization will become a traditional, internationally well-known activity. Tuzmen said the $5.4-billion Turkey-Africa trade volume in 2003 increased to $9.6 billion in 2005 and the target for the next three years is $25 billion.
The Turkey-Africa Foreign Trade Bridge shows us that it is not difficult for the government to appreciate the nation’s enthusiasm, support its dynamism and broaden its horizons.