I wholeheartedly congratulate the Africa Day of all our African friends. The unprecedented conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world render the solidarity symbolised by Africa Day even more significant this year.
The progress achieved in recent years by Africa in many fields and our developing partnership with the continent enable us to look into the future with hope, despite there existing severe challenges. Together with our public institutions, non-governmental organisations and private sector, we have given priority to developing our cooperation with the African continent.
We are working hard to develop our economic and commercial relations with Africa; to increase our development and humanitarian aid, as well as the number of higher education scholarships and Turkish Airlines flights. We aim to further strengthen our relations with Africa on the basis of a win-win understanding and mutual respect.
It is also possible to understand Turkey’s determination to bring her relations with Africa to the highest level possible by looking at the figures. We increased the number of our Embassies in Africa to 42, which were only 12 in 2002. The number of African Embassies in Ankara, which was 10 at the beginning of 2008, has increased to 36 today. The number of mutual high-level visits between 2015 and 2019 alone exceeded 500.
Our bilateral trade volume has soared six-fold in the last 18 years. Today, the Turkish Maarif Foundation operates 144 educational institutions and 17 student dormitories all across Africa. There are thousands of graduates from 54 African countries who studied in Turkey on the framework of the Türkiye Scholarships programme. The number of programme coordination offices of the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) in Africa has reached 22.
Turkey’s interest in Africa and Turkish people’s feelings of friendship toward the African continent- with which Turkey has historical and human ties, is not new. However, these concrete developments are a result of the political stability achieved in Turkey starting from 2002, and the resulting continuity of our foreign policy.
With our country becoming a strategic partner of the African Union and with the first Africa-Turkey Partnership Summit 2008 held in Istanbul, Turkey, the African countries have clearly set forth their collective will to step-up their relationship to a more advanced stage.
Shortly after assuming the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs, I accompanied H.E. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the second Africa-Turkey Partnership Summit held in Malabo during November 2014. I made many friends on the continent.
When African presidents founded the Organisation of the African Union on 25 May 1963, they aimed to protect African affairs by acting in unity, to support the ongoing struggles for independence, and to get rid of the colonial economic model based on importing manufactured goods by selling commodities to Northern countries. From the very beginning, Turkey has sided with Africa in its just cause.
Therefore, the historical Summit held in Addis Ababa also made an impact in Turkey. By examining the news published by the Turkish press and records of debates at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, it will be seen that importance was given to relations with African states that had just gained their independence. The endeavours of Africans in governing themselves was likened to Turkey’s struggle during the foundation of our Republic forty years ago in 1923, and Apartheid was fiercely condemned.
Today’s Africa has made significant progress in achieving the level of integration that visionary leaders have dreamed of since the sixties.
From the beginning of its partnership with Africa, Turkey has chosen the policy to provide unconditional support for the goals which the continent has set for itself. The Africa with whom we are proud of being in a partnership is the Africa with the spirit of 1963, and with the 2063 targets of the African Union. We will continue to look out for Africa’s priorities within all organisations and entities which we are a member of, in particular the United Nations.
With this understanding, we wish to hold the Third Africa-Turkey Partnership Summit as soon as possible. In October 2020, we are also planning to hold the third Turkey-Africa Economy and Business Forum as we held in Istanbul during 2016 and 2018, and achieved successful results.
COVID-19 caught the world off-guard. African countries have taken the necessary measures in a timely manner, thanks to their experience in combatting epidemic diseases. The number of cases and deaths on the continent is relatively low at the moment. We sincerely hope that this will continue, and that the disease will be eradicated from the continent.
Turkey is among the states which have overcome the pandemic’s first stage and can currently hold the number of new cases below her treatment capacity. Having been able to provide equipment assistance to some countries even in the outbreak first months, Turkey aims to increase her assistance capacity in the coming period. As the country that has extended a helping hand to the largest number of countries, after the United States and China, Turkey is trying to respond as soon as possible to such requests from our friendly African countries.
On the other hand, the outbreak has negative economic and social consequences all over the world.
The direct result of the slowdown of economic activities due to protective measures is the decline of production and revenues of each country without exception. A secondary result is the drop in commodity prices like minerals and oil, which are used in industrial production and transport. This decline is affecting countries that depend on the sale of such goods for export revenues. In this respect, it is affecting some African countries more than others.
These are problems that require the international community to come together and seek solutions for collectively. The world after COVID-19 should be one that requires more international cooperation than before, not less. Turkey is ready to do what is incumbent on her in this regard, alongside other countries.
Unfortunately, the picture that emerges at the international level in past weeks is one wherein competition – and not cooperation – comes to the fore, and a perspective that regards the world as a zero-sum game prevails. Yet history has shown us all the harm of such brutal rivalries and cold wars.
In the spirit of 1963, the African continent will also overcome this challenge in unity. I sincerely believe that Africa will contribute not only to the welfare of its own people, but also to the world order of the coming years; and that Turkish-African partnership will be shown as an example in the new, post-pandemic world order in which solidarity will become more important.
That is why the spirit of 25 May 1963 is essential to all of us.
Once again, I wholeheartedly congratulate the Africa Day of all Africans.
The writer is the Turkish Foreign Minister