By Emin Avundukluoglu
ANTALYA, Turkey (AA) – Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said on Saturday that Turkey attaches great importance to African economic growth.
In a speech at the UN's Midterm Review Conference of the Istanbul Program of Action for Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) in Antalya, Koru said the challenges faced by such African and Arab countries are global challenges which “require global responses”.
Koru said that supporting African and Arab LDCs’ development efforts was not just a question of moral solidarity but was “essential for the sustainable growth of the world economy and global stability".
"Turkey very much welcomes this," Koru said, adding: "What is good for Africa will be good for the world."
Ankara has prioritized relations with African countries over the last 10 years and now has 39 resident embassies in African countries, up from 12 just seven years ago. The number of African resident embassies in Ankara has reached 32, up from 10 only five years ago.
Koru said that direct flights between Turkey and African countries, as well as a growing number of students, businesspeople and tourists traveling both ways, have intensified the "people-to-people contact" between the two locations.
"As a result of this process, Turkey's bilateral trade volume with Africa reached $17.5 billion in 2015," Koru said.
Turkey's official development assistance reached $3.9 billion in 2015, which corresponds to 0.54 percent of its gross national income.
In the past five years, Turkey has provided LDCs more than $1.6 billion in development assistance.
The country's Development Cooperation Agency (TIKA) has reached 40 LDCs so far. TIKA actively supports sustainable development efforts in African and Arab LDCs through various projects.
Turkey, which provides more than 1,000 scholarships every year for students from African and Arab LDCs, is also conducting technical training programs for young people both at home and in African and Arab LDCs.
"These young people will make our bonds with these nations stronger as they contribute to the development of their countries," Koru said.
Recalling an African proverb – "If you want to walk long, walk together," Koru added: "The journey ahead of us is long and requires unity and solidarity."
The three-day conference in Antalya is a comprehensive review of how the 2011 Istanbul Program of Action has been implemented.
That program, passed at the Fourth UN Conference on Least-Developed Countries, charts out the international community’s strategy for sustainable development through to 2021, with a strong focus on developing LDCs’ productive capacities.