By Tuba Sahin and Gokhan Ergocun
ISTANBUL (AA) – The Second Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum kicked off in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Considering Turkey’s operations on the continent, its share of Africa's trade volume should be higher than its current level, Nail Olpak, head of the Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK), said in his opening speech.
"Turkey constitutes 2.1 percent of Africa's foreign trade,” explained Olpak.
“This doesn’t reflect the country's potential, as it has 41 embassies, 26 commercial counselors, 44 business councils, 21 Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency [TIKA] Offices, 51 destinations serviced by Turkish Airlines, as well as the Red Crescent, and Disaster and Emergency Management Agency [AFAD]."
A global economy which fails to include Africa is unthinkable, he added.
"No future can be built without Africa," Olpak said.
Melaku Ezezew, head of the Pan-African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the forum will help both sides strengthen bilateral ties.
"Africa is changing, Africa is going through a historic transformation," he said.
"It's difficult to understand unique business opportunities in Africa without such partnerships and without on-the-ground visits."
– 'Unique place in African heritage'
Ezezew said national and continental private sector organizations on the continent are ready to cooperate with Turkey.
"Turkey has a unique place in the heritage of Africans, and we see great interest among our business communities in partnering with their Turkish counterparts," he said.
Victor Harrison, commissioner for economic affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC), stressed that the forum plays an important role in enhancing cooperation with African and Turkish business leaders.
The forum came together with the support of the existing strategic cooperation between Turkey and Africa, he said.
Harrison said the forum provides “great” opportunities to focus on cooperation and sustainable development.
Stressing the private sector's importance for economic growth and prosperity, he said investments in the field of tourism, energy, and agriculture will provide more sustainable development and make trade more competitive.
The forum was organized by DEIK in coordination with Turkey’s Trade Ministry and the African Union as part of a 100-day action plan the Turkish government recently introduced to support the economy.
The two-day forum will feature a ministerial meeting themed "Fair, Free and Sustainable Trade" as well as panel discussions on cooperation in construction, infrastructure, and energy, and trade and investment in Africa.