By Zuhal Demirci and Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
ANKARA (AA) - The development of commercial and political relations between Turkey and Africa these past years has attracted attention ahead of the Second Turkey-Africa Ministerial Review Conference in Istanbul to take place on Feb. 11-12.
The conference is co-organized by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the African Union Commission with the attendance of 19 African countries. It is being held four years after the Africa-Turkey Summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in November 2014.
The upcoming conference is also symbolic in the sense that it coincides with the 10th anniversary of the African Union Summit of 2008 in which Turkey was declared a strategic partner of the African Union.
According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry's press information note about the conference, it will be attended by a large number of AU member states, including the representatives of Rwanda, Guinea, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Libya, South Africa, Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Togo, Gabon and Chad, as well as AU Commission representatives.
The note said Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania would be invited by Turkey as observers.
It added that one of the objectives of the conference is to review the preparations for the Third Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit which will take place in Istanbul in 2019.
The conference also aims to review the progress achieved with regards to the partnership and discuss steps that can be taken in order to strengthen the cooperation between Africa and Turkey, the note said.
The first Turkey-Africa summit was held in 2008 in Istanbul, the second one in 2014 in Malabo Equatorial Guinea and the third summit is scheduled for 2019 in Turkey.
According to diplomatic sources, Turkey intends to continue it policy towards closer cooperation with the African Union as it attaches great importance to sharing political and cultural experiences and facilities and resources with African countries.
Since 2004, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid official visits to 24 African countries accompanied by ministers, bureaucrats and businessmen where he pioneered in the signing of many bilateral treaties between Turkey and African countries.
Turkey currently has 40 embassies in African countries. They numbered 12 in 2009. There are 33 African embassies in Ankara.
Turkey aims to open embassies in all African countries.
Turkey also provides an annual support of $1 million to the African Union since 2009, a source said.
- Investment, aid and trade
In 2015, Turkey’s official development assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa was $395.77 million.
Turkey’s bilateral trade volume with Africa increased three-fold from 2003 to reach $18.8 billion in 2017, as exports totaled $11.6 billion and imports $7.1 billion.
Total Turkish investment in Africa is estimated to have surpassed $6 billion, the source said.
Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) of Turkey has established business councils with 35 African countries and the first Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum was held in Istanbul on 2-3 November 2016.
The first Turkey-Africa Agriculture Ministers Meeting was held in Antalya, Turkey, in April 2017.
- Turkish hospitals in Africa
The hospitals built by Turkey have been extending a helping hand to thousands of patients in different regions of Africa.
Turkey opened the Somalia-Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan Training and Research Hospital in Mogadishu in 2015.
As part of a protocol signed by Turkey and Somalia, the Turkish Health Ministry will continue to financially support the hospital and send health staff for the next five years after which the hospital will be handed over to Somalia.
The protocol also suggests development of a tertiary care services model and the provision of quality health services to the Somali people.
The source said the Nyala Turkish-Sudanese Research and Training Hospital was also one of the biggest humanitarian projects Turkey has ever realized in Africa.
The hospital does not only attract patients from Sudan, but also from Cameroon, Chad, Gambia and other countries in the region, the source added.
Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Red Crescent in early 2017, launched a nationwide donation campaign “Umudu Ol” in Turkey to assist drought-ridden East African countries.
Following the campaign, Congress of Health in Africa was organized in Istanbul on July 20-21 2017.
-Sharing experiences in Africa
Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) currently operates 21 Program Coordination Offices in Africa.
The aid agency has carried out long-running and sustainable development models through its regional offices across the continent.
Turkish Airlines also flies to 51 destinations in 33 countries in Africa.
The Turkish Ministry of National Education hosted the first Turkey-Africa Education Ministers Conference in Istanbul on 19-21 October 2017 in cooperation with the Maarif Foundation.
Turkey has provided undergraduate, graduate and doctorate scholarships to more than 8,000 African students since 1992.
The Turkish Military Training Center in Mogadishu became fully operational at the end of September 2017 and it is providing training for personnel that will form the backbone of the Somali National Army, the source added.
The source said the training center is being seen as a light of hope for restructuring the army in Somalia, which has seen recurring conflicts.
- Promoting African handicrafts
Africa Handicrafts Center and Culture House was also opened in the old town of Ankara under the patronage of the First Lady Emine Erdogan in 2016.
At the center, handmade products are being sold to provide revenue for African women.