The Turkey-Ghana diplomatic and economic relationship has gone from strength to strength over the last several years. Not only has the growing relationship led to several notable Turkish companies setting up in Ghana to provide crucial goods and services to Ghanaians as well as investing heavily in key sectors such as energy, shipping, construction and agriculture among several others but also provided much needed employment for our teeming youth.
Crucially, trade between the two countries has also seen significant growth over the period. The growing Ghanaian middle class prefer quality goods in almost all sectors from clothing, electronics to construction materials and household items.
This trend has no doubt strengthened the demand for Turkish-made products as they offer a unique hybrid between European standard quality at far more affordable prices than goods made in the EU or US.
This unique characteristic is quickly making Turkey the destination of choice for most traders and merchants not only in Ghana but across the length and breadth of the African continent.
To say the year 2020 was a year like no other is clearly an understatement. The once-in-a-generation pandemic which is still raging mercilessly across the globe managed to torpedo the best laid plans for almost every country and business entity.
Unfortunately, the sheer economic fallout from managing the pandemic led to catastrophic consequences for global economic activity and trade.
Closure of economies and factories in several key trading partners such as China and many of the western countries had significant impact on trading activities here and across the continent as well. Yet, not all bilateral trade activity was affected the same.
While most countries were shut for the better part of the year, some countries managed to isolate their key production centers and adopted prudent strategies that ensured that they remained operational.
This was the case in Turkey where the Government did an excellent job of isolating and keeping key production facilities open while observing strict hygiene protocols. This is what allowed Turkey to be at the forefront of global supply of key health and safety equipment and essentials such as masks, ventilators among several others.
The overall trade volume between the two countries soared by about 62%. A record-breaking year, beating expectations of many trade analyst who were anticipating a significant drop in trade activity as a result of the pandemic.
Total trade volume as at the end of December 2020 stood at $771m, up from $476m as at December 2019. Ghana’s exports to Turkey shot up by an astonishing 188% over that of 2019, rising from $102m to $294m.
Turkish exports to Ghana also enjoyed strong growth, jumping some 28% over the 2019 figures. Total exports to Ghana as at December 2020 stood at $477m up from $374 million the year before.
Even the most pessimistic analyst will agree that the record-breaking trade activity between the two countries is a rather magnificent feat especially given the context of the year we just had.
UNDERSTANDING THE GROWTH IN TRADE
As far as Turkish exports to Ghana is concerned, while a 28% growth is very commendable, it follows the growth trajectory over the last decade. As indicated at the outset, changing taste as well as strong demand for more quality albeit slightly more expensive products has positioned made in Turkey products as the product of choice among a growing number of Ghanaians.
More importantly, all the hard work and energy the Turkish Government has invested in building firm relations with the African continent as one of the key points of its foreign relations policy over the last several decades is paying off handsomely.
More and more Turkish manufacturers and private sector players are currently pushing hard for opportunities to tap into the lucrative African market. The picture we are currently seeing in Ghana isn’t really unique, Turkish investments and products are quickly gaining ground all over the continent. The growing economic success of Turkey in Africa is testament to the power of formulating long term plans and executing it meticulously with proper strategy and discipline.
A closer inspection of the data as far the strong growth in our exports to Turkey is concerned also reveal an all too familiar picture.
Traditional exports like cocoa and gold dominated. Non-traditional exports like soy beans, copper and scrap aluminum also contributed to the growth. Gold however was the key factor behind the drastic growth in our export numbers.
A surge in the demand for gold last year as a result of the abundant stimulus provided by Governments across the world as part of their response to the economic fall out of the pandemic and the resulting inflation led many investors to seek gold to protect the value of their savings.
Similar demand in Turkey led to strong purchase of gold from local suppliers, thus bumping up our exports numbers significantly.
The 2020 Ghana-Turkey export data is really commendable and we can all pat ourselves on the back as well as commend the relevant agencies that are responsible for promoting our exports such as GEPA.
However, we simply cannot rest our laurels. 2021 will give us another opportunity to assess whether or not the strong growth in 2020 was merely a pandemic-inspired fluke. Strong, deliberate effort needs to be undertaken to grow our non-traditional exports to key emerging markets like Turkey.
While it is always important to continuously work on cementing our trade relations with our key traditional allies, more deliberate efforts have to be invested in also growing our trade relations further with these emerging powers to help diversify our exports. Just as we are spending considerable efforts in diversifying the things we export, similar efforts have to be made in also diversifying where we export to.
The sheer size of the Turkish Economy, as a G20 member, as well as its diversified nature, being a key manufacturing economy makes it a very attractive destination for a resource rich country like ours. Having visited different parts of Turkey several times over the years, I have observed that most Turks have a keen affinity to African products such as African art and artifacts, fabrics and even tropical food. Such products actually sell at a premium in certain parts of Turkey if well branded and marketed. We can only truly take advantage of this wonderful opportunity if we identify Turkey as a key market and devise proper strategies for expanding our economic and trade activities there.
It was a pleasure to see Mrs Ayorkor Botchwey officially visit Turkey last year. The very first for a Foreign Minister from Ghana. It was also heartwarming to see the team she took included strong representation from the GIPC and GEPA. We have to now work on aggressively growing our economic relations even further as part of the Government’s efforts to live up to the President’s favorite quote of building a Ghana beyond aid, which is really no more than we deserve given the sheer potential we possess as a country.
He is founder of turkafriq.com and an expert in Turkey-Africa Relations