By Kester Kenn Klomegah
On October 21 to 22, Turkish and African leaders together with corporate business directors, industrialist and investors are meeting under the theme “Deepening Turkey-Africa Strategic Partnership: Trade, Investment, Technology and Logistics” to review past performance, examine existing challenges and further discuss strategic ways for boosting trade and investment, find comprehensive ways for strengthening entire economic relations between Africa and Turkey.
The African Union Commission and the Government of Turkey have signed a Cooperation Framework Arrangement on the organization of the Third Africa-Turkey Economic and Business Forum in Istanbul, Turkey. It provides an opportunity for participants drawn from both public and private sectors in Africa and Turkey to engage in a wide array of exchanges and discussions, to jointly identify ways to scale up the private sector engagement as a catalyst for sustainable and inclusive development.
The Cooperation Framework Agreement was signed by Ambassador Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade Industry and Mining and Ambassador Yaprak Alp, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Ethiopia.
While the public sector has a responsibility to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, the private sector, equally plays a key role in among others, enhancing trade and investment, expanding innovations and resource mobilization for investment in socio-economic projects. Increased investment is a prerequisite for the realization of Africa’s Agenda 2063.
Muchanga noted that the Africa-Turkey Economic and Business Forum has over the years, created great opportunities to generate critical investments through active collaboration among the entrepreneurs.
He also noted the timeliness of the signing of the Cooperation Framework as a means of scaling up the private sector’s active participation, towards the achievement of economic transformation of Africa by way of strengthened productive capacities, enhanced competitiveness, diversification in all sectors and substantial value addition.
“As we stand now, tremendous milestone have been made towards ensuring smooth preparations including documentation as well as logistical preparations. Our principle should be to improve living standards of our people through enhancing private sector development, thereby increasing our countries economic growth and development,” he emphasized.
On her part, Yaprak highlighted trade and business aspects as one of the most dynamic parts of the African Union-Turkey relationship. She observed that the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) will not only to boost intra-African trade but also to strengthen trade and investment links between Turkey and Africa.
“For this to be fully functional, more pan-African investment networks and infrastructure are required. Turkey would be honoured to play a positive role in this vein through the interface of the African Union. These and many other issues will be explored in Istanbul and I hope this will be a new turning point in Africa-Turkey trade and economic relations,” she anticipated.
Turkey has been making inroads these years into Africa. Shedding its one-dimensional approach to foreign policy that it followed for decades, which was shaped by its relations with the West, Turkey has shifted direction and pursued a more diversified, multidimensional and independent foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Turkey has opened up to Africa, stemming from an action plan adopted in 1998 that took shape in 2005, which Ankara had declared the “Year of Africa.”
The same year, Turkey was accorded an observer status by the African Union. In a reciprocal move, the AU declared Turkey its strategic partner in 2008, and relations between Africa and Turkey gained momentum when the first Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit was held in the commercial capital Istanbul with the participation of representatives from 50 African countries that year.
In 2009, there were only 12 Turkish embassies in African countries, with five of them in North Africa. Now, there are 43. Turkish Airlines has flights to 60 different destinations in 39 countries on the continent while the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has nearly 30 coordination centers. Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) has joint business councils with more than half of Africa’s countries.