Turkey has become the latest entrant in the charm offensive towards Africa, which has been billed as the next frontier for growth.
The Eurasian nation held the second Turkey-Africa economic and business forum in Istanbul last Wednesday and Thursday where it pitched to African countries to embrace it as a key trade partner.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the wooing saying his country, unlike others, was keen on a win-win partnership.
“We want to improve our relations, built on mutual respect, in all areas on the basis of win-win and equal partnership,” said the president while opening the forum that was attended by over 2,000 delegates from Africa and Turkey.
He outlined his personal keen interest on the continent, reminding the attendees how he has expanded Turkey’s footprint in Africa during his time as Prime Minister and now as president.
“Since we took office, we have been working in this spirit in order to strengthen our co-operation with the whole of Africa without any discrimination, especially in the period as Prime Minister in 2005, we have declared the ‘African Year’. Since then, the tempo has increased. When we took office, we had 12 embassies in Africa and today we have 41 embassies. This number will continue to increase,” said President Erdogan.
Some 5,000 African students are also in Turkey having benefited from the government’s scholarships.
Previously, Turkey has pursued bilateral relationships but is now keen to turn that into a multilateral engagement.
The forum was hosted by the Turkey’s Ministry of Trade and organised by Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEiK) in collaboration with the African Union (AU).
Ethiopia President Mulatu Teshome, Rwanda Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission Victor Harison and Pan-African Chamber of Commerce Vice-President Melak Ezezew led the massive African delegation to the event.
Mr Ngirente was representing AU chairman and Rwanda president Paul Kagame.
Africa has a population of 1.2 billion people and is expected to hit 2.5 billion by 2050, making it a frontier for other regions.
In African countries such as Kenya, Turkey is big in the textile and construction sectors and is seeking to expand into infrastructure, energy and health industries.
Overall, Turkish trade volume with Africa has jumped from $5.4 billion in 2003 to more than $20 billion last year.
The country’s presence is, however, bigger in some countries like Ethiopia and it would like to replicate that success across the continent.
President Teshome revealed that Turkey was now one of the three largest investors in Ethiopia.
While Turkey exports $440 million to Ethiopia, it imports $36 million worth of Ethiopian products.
“As Ethiopia, we invite Turkish business people to our country for new investments with our natural energy resources, more than 100 million work force, strong macro economy and stable management,” said Dr Teshome. President Erdoğan urged African countries to do business with their local currencies, explaining that it would save them from pressures of foreign currencies and exchange rates.