Wednesday, March 2 2016 16:02 EET
Turkey, strong enough to meet demands of West Africa
opinions, Turkey, Africa, land, economy, middle east, money, politics, world

Africa, the second largest continent that covers 24 percent of the world's total land area, promises significant opportunities. When the goods that the region demands are considered, Turkey is strong enough meet with them

The sluggish trend in the global economy and instability in our region urges us to be active in order to ensure market diversity and boost our influence on existing markets. As an outward-oriented country, Turkey pursues an active policy to improve bilateral commercial and economic relations. In accordance with this policy, following a visit to the South American countries of Chile, Peru and Ecuador in late January of this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to visit Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria along with a delegation of 150 Turkish businessmen from Feb. 28 to March 3.

Africa, which is the second largest continent and covers 24 percent of the world's total land area, promises significant opportunities. Historical ties between Turkey and many African countries and the fact that Turkey was not engaged in colonial activities on the continent in its past are the primary reasons why Africans sympathize with Turkey and Turks. Turkey, which embraced millions of refugees who fled the Bosnian war in the past and who flee the Syrian civil war now, provides $3 billion worth of overseas development assistance and ranks third in the world in this regard. Throughout history Turkey has adopted the principle that a helping hand is superior to a recipient hand in Africa.

After policies were implemented, Turkey's trade volume with African countries has gained significant momentum. Particularly the Africa Strategy, which was introduced under Erdoğan's leadership as prime minister in 2003, has become a major policy with the support of relevant ministries today.

Turkey's trade volume in Africa soared to nearly $18 billion in 2015 from $5.5 billion in 2003. Turkey's exports to the continent also surged to $12.6 billion from $2.1 billion and imports from it increased to $5.1 billion from $3.3 billion in the same period. Turkey's trade volume in Africa achieved 11.5 percent growth on an annual average between 2003 and 2015 while exports to and imports from Africa rose 18 percent and 4 percent, respectively, in the same period. Thus, the exports-imports coverage ratio soared to 247 percent from 167 percent.

Africa is the third region to which Turkey carries out the greatest number of exports on a country group basis. According to Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) data, Turkey's exports to Africa decreased 9.3 percent in terms of value in 2015 whereas they increased 13.9 percent in terms of amount in the same year. This rise is an indicator showing that Turkey's market share on the continent has increased and that Africa will be a market where Turkey will make much better progress when the shrinkage in global economy disappears.

We have strengthened our corporate presence in Africa in tandem with our Africa strategy. The activities conducted by the Economy and Foreign Ministries make major contributions to investments and commercial relations. There were 14 Turkish representative offices – 12 embassies and two consulates – on the continent in 2002. It is a significant development that this figure now exceeds 40. Furthermore, Turkish entrepreneurs operating in the region serve as role models for other entrepreneurs who aim to be active in the African market. Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines conducts flights to 48 destinations in 31 African countries. TİM boosts its influence in the African market by sending trade missions to the region in cooperation with Turkish Airlines. We think that the expansion of bilateral relations and trade and the creation of new instruments will make important contributions to our exports at the point we have reached thanks to this strategy that is being run successfully. So we are sure that the presidential delegation's visit to Africa will make major contributions to the further development of our trade relations with the continent. Turkish exporters will have the opportunity to have bilateral trade talks at business forums that will be organized in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria during the delegation's visit.

The presidential delegation will first visit Cote d'Ivoire, which determines global cocoa and chocolate prices. Cote d'Ivoire is considered to be an important country because of both its socio-economic development and logistical advantages. We have achieved a considerable increase in our trade with the country, the population of which is nearly 23 million. Our export volume with the country surged to $116 million in 2015 from $14 million in 2003. The Turkish cement industry has a great part in this rise. Furthermore, machinery, iron and steel and plastic products are our major export items, while cocoa constitutes 90 percent of our imports from the country. Our other important import items are jewelry and bait. Our foreign trade volume with Cote d'Ivoire soared to $390 million in 2015 from $43 million in 2003.

The second destination that the delegation will visit is Ghana, which stands out because of its administrators and politicians. The population of Ghana, to which the African wealthy send their children for university educations, is nearly 27 million, and the country has an economic size of $40 billion. Ghana's clear and transparent administration system makes the country proper for investments. Turkey's exports to Ghana increased to $321 million in 2015 from $37 million in 2003, and parallel to this, the foreign trade volume with the country soared to $400 million from $132 million in the same period. It is a significant development that we are no longer a net importer for Ghana as we have become a net exporter for the country. Plastic products, electrical equipment and cement constitute the majority of our exports to Ghana. Moreover, work to further improve trade between Turkey and Ghana is in progress. the Economy Ministry is carrying out work on a free trade agreement with the country.

Our last stop is Nigeria, which determines Africa's oil prices as it is the largest oil producer on the continent. The population of Nigeria, which is a D8 country like Turkey, is 180 million and it has an economic size of $520 million. Expectations for a rise in the country's population and financial dynamism over the next 30 years make it even more attractive for investors. Nigeria is one of the most important African markets. Turkey's exports to the country rose to $314 million in 2015 from $66 million in 2003, and in parallel with this, our foreign trade volume with the country soared to $1.14 billion from $290 million. Machinery, iron and steel and electrical appliances constitute the majority of our exports to the country, while oil constitutes 80 percent of our imports from it.

According to current data, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria have $15.2 billion, $11.2 billion and $46.5 billion in imports, respectively. When we consider their import items, we see that they have demands for similar products. Energy oil, machinery, land vehicles and electrical appliances, which are the most important import goods for the three countries, amount to $13.4 billion, $9.6 billion, $6.4 billion and $5.2 billion, respectively. Machinery, land vehicles and electrical appliances are major export items from Turkey. We think that such a match will have important consequences for our exports in the region in the upcoming period. We have to make rapid moves and we think the Turkish delegation's official visit to the three countries is of great significance in this respect. Turkey is one of the countries that can respond to Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria's demands in the best way. The U.S., China and EU countries take great interest in the region. When the goods that the region demands are considered, we are strong enough to compete with these countries in terms of supply of demanded goods. Countries that offer opportunities for investments and exports will help us boost our performance in the overall African market. Therefore, we have to make correct and timely moves in the region.

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