ISTANBUL - As the contraction in Western European markets continues, Turkey should direct its focus to alternative markets such as Africa, says a top Turkish businessman. The trade volume between Turkey and Africa still remains low, he adds
President Abdullah Gül’s recent tour of Kenya and Tanzania with a broad business delegation last week may be the starting point of a new era for boosting ties between Turkey and African nations.
Evaluating the results of the president’s Africa visit yesterday, Turkish Exporters’ Assembly Chairman Mehmet Büyükekşi said: "The global crisis is hittng developed economies as their markets contract. Meanwhile, alternative markets such as Africa keep growing 3 or 5 percent on an annual rate. Turkey should direct its focus to this region."
"The crisis is forcing Turkey to seek new opportunities in fresh fields," said Büyükekşi. "The president’s visit to Kenya and Tanzania generated fruitful cooperation opportunities and encouraged business circles of all three countries to boost bilateral trade," he told journalists.
The trade volume between Turkey and African countries is rapidly increasing in recent years, but it still remains low, considering the potentials. "The overall trade volume between Turkey and the whole continent, which stood $5.6 billion in 2007, reached $9 billion with a 51 percent increase. But still there is a long way to go," Büyükekşi said.
The export volume of Turkey to Kenya, which stood at $98 million in 2007, reached $235 million, posting a 141 percent increase. Exports to Tanzania, which were $30.2 million in 2007, increased 74 percent last year and totaled $52.6 million, Büyükekşi noted.
Figures still low
"These figures are still quite low," he said. "We aim to lift our trade volume with both countries to the tune of $1 billion each." Speaking at the same meeting, Rızanur Meral, chairman of the Turkish Confederation of Industrialists and Businessmen, or TUSKON, said, "Representing great investment potential and with their low labor costs, Kenya and Tanzania are cut-out for Turkish entrepreneurs, particularly for middle-scale industrialists."
"Turkey and its business potential are not quite well known by African countries. We should try focus on the continent before it is too late," said Meral. "The visit of the president put Turkey on the agendas of Kenya and Tanzania. We should not miss this opportunity.
"Such opportunities could be a good time for Turkish businesspeople to take a breath amid the depressing atmosphere that the global financial turmoil has created," Meral said.
Speaking on the new business links that were established by Turkish businesspeople in Kenya and Tanzania during the visit, TİM Vice Chairman Mustafa Çıkrıkçı said the volume of such relations had surpassed $500 million.
"Realizing the potential in the region, many Turkish companies set up business deals in both countries right away," said Çıkrıkçı.
"For instance, Alke İnşaat, a leading construction company, undertook a $200 million housing project for the military in Kenya, while Esim Communication decided to invest in building a hospital, worth $55 million. Turkey’s Fermak Construction also plans to build a 78 kilometer-long highway in Tanzania within the framework of a $80 million project," Çıkrıkçı said.