Turkey has celebrated the 55th anniversary of Africa Day with an assurance that its outreach towards Africa has been built on visible, tangible and mutually beneficial foundations.
Currently, Turkey is represented in the continent with 41 embassies, with the latest opening of embassies in Sierra Leone and the Equatorial Guinea.
“We will raise this number to 50 in the medium term with the ultimate target of being represented in every African country,” Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, has said.
He said trade with the African continent now exceeded US$20 billion, representing nearly a five-fold increase compared to 2003.
This shows that both Africa and Turkey were benefiting from an equitable trade relationship and they recognise the important role played by the regional economic communities in the future of Africa.
In that sense, the Foreign Minister recalled that last February they organised the first Turkey-Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Economic and Business Forum, with the objective of deepening the economic partnership between Turkey and ECOWAS members.
He emphasised that their national airline carrier, Turkish Airlines (THY), continued to extend its presence on the continent by adding new destinations to its flight network.
THY, he noted, was currently flying to 52 destinations in 34 countries in Africa. “The latest addition to THY’s network was Freetown in Sierra Leone. Flights to the Comoros Islands will also be starting this June. Our national carrier is helping Africans to travel to Turkey and to the rest of the world,” he stated.
He pointed out that the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement had been a critical milestone that would shape the future of Africa.
Mr Çavuşoğlu noted that political institutions around Africa were evolving even as we were witnessing the emergence of a strong middle class in many African countries.
“The continent has the aspiration to take strides across all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Africa’s aspirations include not only eliminating absolute poverty, but also reducing inequality, offering a wealth of valuable education opportunities to all and reinforcing good governance as the norm. Africa operates increasingly as a cohesive unit,” he stressed.
From 2004 until 2016, he disclosed that the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TICA) had spent US$1.43 billion to support sustainable development efforts in Africa.
Peace and security
Mr Çavuşoğlu noted that Turkey was actively contributing to peace and security on the continent and was also assisting efforts to combat terrorism in the Sahel.
At the recent Brussels Conference, Turkey pledged US$5 million to support the regional G5 Sahel Security Force, he announced.
He said Turkey highly appreciated that many African countries had taken swift action against various organisations affiliated with the Fetullah Gulenist Terror Organisation, which attempted a bloody coup in Turkey.
“Our interest in Africa is concretised by intensified political contacts at the highest level,” he emphasised.
The foreign minister noted that Africa’s ascendancy made all Turks proud and were motivated to engage in closer ties and cooperation.
He said they had every reason to be a proud partner of African nations, adding that Turkey’s engagement was based on building lasting relationships and their principal purpose was to establish deep rooted cooperation with their African counterparts in a manner that was sustainable and mutually productive.
He said “I have been encouraged to hear in so many instances that Turkey’s goodwill and determined outreach resonates with our African partners. Africa considers Turkey as a vigorous partner in Africa’s progress towards comprehensive and sustainable development and its consequent influence in global affairs,” he stated.
Mr Çavuşoğlu recalled that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had paid official visits to 26 African countries since his term as a Prime Minister, and said these visits opened new avenues of cooperation.
The multitude of agreements signed showed that Turkey was committed to opening new areas of collaboration with African countries.
He announced that humanitarian and development partnerships had been strong elements of Turkey’s overall outreach to the continent, adding that many ministries, agencies and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) in Turkey took part in this combined effort. He said their benchmark for success was responding to meeting local needs in a speedy manner.
The minister announced that the Maarif Foundation, a government run agency, had begun to operate schools in Africa, saying that their goal was to provide solid support to the efforts of African governments to provide affordable and quality education all over the continent.