By Mevlüt Çavusoglu
I would like congratulate all our African friends on May 25 in commemoration of the Africa Day wholeheartedly.
We remember with appreciation the African countries coming together under the roof of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), later African Union (AU), on May 25, 1963, predicating on independence and freedom, and displaying a common consciousness based on solidarity and unity. The success story reached in the following decades in this spirit and understanding gives us hope for a bright future of the continent.
Without a colonial past and having attained its full independence with its struggle against the occupation forces during the War of Independence, Turkey is one of the countries that best grasps the meaning of this day. We are happy to share today this common joy, conscious of the importance of remembering the struggle for independence by the peoples of Africa for freedom, equality and justice, and evoking the founding goals of the AU.
Our approach to African countries completely matches the founding principles of the AU and is built on a holistic, inclusive, equal partnership on the basis of mutual respect and win-win strategy. We share the spirit of 1963 and the vision of Africa and attach great importance to Agenda 2063 and UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In our concerted journey, which gained momentum with our observer membership status to the AU in 2005, we have covered plenty of ground with the First Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit that we hosted in Istanbul, and by being declared a strategic partner of the union in 2008. After the Second Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit held in Malabo in 2014, our ties with African countries have become stronger. We hope to host the third summit in our country in September, which we believe will offer opportunities for a strong and comprehensive cooperation between Turkey and Africa.
We continue to contribute to peace and stability and economic and social development in Africa through our public institutions, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the private sector. Our Africa Initiative and Africa Partnership policies, considered among the most successful initiatives of our foreign policy, constitute an added value to our relations with the continent. We can see this constructive effect in many areas such as trade, investment, culture, security, military cooperation and development, and especially in our intensifying and developing political relations with Africa in the last decade. We are pleased to observe that African countries also attach importance to strengthening cooperation with our country.
We continue to integrate Turkey and Africa in all areas. While the number of our diplomatic missions in the continent was only 12 in 2002, we increased this number to 43, with our embassy opened in Togo last month. African countries also increased the number of their embassies in Ankara from 10 in 2008 to 37. Turkey, which is the fifth country in the world in terms of the number of diplomatic missions, continues to bring the issues of Africa to the agenda at the global level with its wide diplomacy network, and also continues to cooperate with African countries in regional and international platforms.
We continue to develop our commercial and economic relations with a win-win approach. Despite pandemic conditions, we managed to keep our trade volume close to the previous year’s data. The total value of our direct investments in Africa has exceeded $6bn. Our Turkish contractors contribute to Africa’s development by undertaking more than 1,150 projects. We appreciate the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which is considered the most important project of Agenda 2063. We are ready to share our experiences with our African friends and provide support in this regard.
Development and humanitarian aid of Turkey continues to contribute to the creation of favourable conditions for the establishment of a prosperous Africa. The official development aid provided by our public institutions to Africa between 2005 and 2019 has reached almost $3.5bn. In line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda commitments, our total development aid for 46 Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 33 of which are in Africa, was $8.7bn between 2009 and 2019.
We are also pleased that the sustainable development projects of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), which representation office number has reached 22 in Africa and which bilateral official development assistance for the continent exceeded $500m, are embraced throughout the continent. The Turkish Maarif Foundation (TMF) has been providing education services to more than 14,000 students with 144 schools and 16 dormitories all over Africa. The number of our African students who graduated with the Turkiye Scholarships programme has exceeded 15,000. Holding the honour of being the only foreign company that flies to the highest number of destinations, including 60 cities in Africa, Turkish Airlines continues to contribute to the reunion of Africa with the rest of the world.
We did not leave our African friends alone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the framework of the pandemic, we provided medical equipment donations, cash donations or purchase permission assistance for the export and purchasing of medical supplies to 44 African countries. The approximate value of relief aid material we made to the region has reached $12m, and the amount of our financial aid has reached $6m. Turkey’s endeavours for developing vaccines against COVID-19 is also continuing. We are determined to complete our vaccine activities in autumn and offer these to the service of all humanity, especially to African countries.
The theme of “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development and Intensifying the Fight Against the COVID-19 Epidemic” set for Africa Day celebrations to be held online this year due to the pandemic is in harmony with Turkey’s humanitarian and entrepreneurial foreign policy agenda. Standing against all kinds of violence, advocating the resolution of disputes through dialogue, and conducting mediation activities when needed, our country strongly supports the goal of “silencing the guns”. Turkey, along with its different mediation and facilitation roles undertaken across the world, is also the Co-Chair of the Group of Friends of Mediation established under the UN, the OSCE and the OIC. We believe that our joint effort with the AU, which is a member of the friends group in UN, will contribute to security and stability in Africa.
With its innovative steps, Turkey shapes not only the diplomacy of today, but also that of the future. In 2019, we announced the Digital Diplomacy initiative by taking advantage of the transformative power of technology. We believe Africa’s recent focus on digitalisation for sustainable development is spot-on. Within this context, we have observed with pleasure that digital transformation is recommended to achieve Agenda 2063 targets and to ensure sustainable economic recovery in the “Africa’s Development Dynamics: Digital Transformation for Quality Jobs” report published by the AU this year despite COVID-19. We are ready to work with our African friends in the field of digital transformation.
We will continue to be in unity and solidarity with African countries and the AU with the strength and inspiration we derive from our centuries-old historical, cultural and human relations with Africa.
I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate Africans on this day with heartfelt feelings.
Çavusoglu is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey