With Turkish companies engaging in Africa, Ruhsar Pekcan, Turkey’s minister of trade, outlines how the relationship can be mutually beneficial.
We know that the 21st century will be shaped by the people of Africa. That’s not a fanciful prediction of a distant future – it’s a fact with which economies will contend over the coming three decades. By 2050 around 2.2bn people will be added to the global population. More than half of that growth will occur in Africa. These new citizens will need jobs. If provided, Africa will become a centre of global growth. Yet if many struggle to find jobs, it’s likely a new era of instability will beckon, not just for Africa, but beyond, in our interconnected world.
So, Turkey is working with African nations, engaging to shape the economic future of the continent for the better. The facts of our partnership tell a clear story. In the last 15 years, Turkey’s trade with African countries has grown more than sixfold to $20.6bn. There are now over 41 Turkish embassies on the continent, and Turkish Airlines flies to more than 50 African destinations, more than any other international carrier.
This partnership is different because the private sector has led the way. Turkish companies have completed 1,150 projects worth $65bn. Our companies have invested in diverse areas ranging from agribusiness, security, health and transportation. In Ghana, Turkish companies have invested in the country’s electrical grid, and currently produce 35% of total supply. Turkey has also invested in Ghana’s water facilities, with a $165m injection into a water treatment plant that will provide more than 2m people with clean water. From textile investments in Ethiopia to railway projects in Tanzania, the breadth of the Turkish private sector’s economic dealings in African countries is expanding.
We are also focused on making African goods and services available in Turkey: our imports have reached $5.1bn, up 54% since the initiative began. October saw a celebration of this remarkable partnership in Istanbul, with leaders from across Africa, including heads of state, the term president of the African Union (AU), and business leaders gathering in Istanbul for the Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum to meet with President Erdogan and senior Turkish officials and executives. It’s a sign of strength of the relationship that this gathering produced more than photo opportunities. Three new partnerships emerged: a cooperation agreement with the AU, and trade and economic partnership agreements with Guinea Bissau and Zimbabwe.
In developed countries, Turkey’s outreach in Africa is depicted as a competition with China, as part of a race. This mischaracterises and misunderstands our approach. We’re partnering with African nations for shared prosperity. The more investment from all sides the better – for the continent and for our shared global economic future. We want China, the US and the EU fully engaged – and Turkey is ready to lead the way. Ever since the silk road, our country has been a commercial hub, a bridge between distant lands. Today, our approach in Africa is helping to bring about a paradigm shift, one that can drastically reshape the future. We hope that the developed world gets on board.