Gabonese Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima welcomes Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the Libreville Airport in April 2013. Since 2004, Erdogan has paid official visits to 24 African countries, spearheading the signings of numerous bilateral pacts / © TKR

Turkey in Africa: A humanitarian approach, by Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu

Souleiman is a Darfuri young man who had to leave for Khartoum from Darfur in 2004, sheltering in the outskirts of the capital, he did not have the chance to receive proper schooling. Lacking therefore a vocational skill, he was unemployed for most of the time.

However, in spring 2013, he came to know that there was a vocational training center, established by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and run in collaboration with the Governorate of Khartoum. He attended a course in air-conditioning for six months. Upon completing the training program, he started working at one of the largest air-conditioning firms in the city. He now makes a living for himself and supports his extended family. He is one of over fifteen hundred young men who received vocational training at the TIKA center.

Chagina, widowed with three children in early 2008, had to take over from her late husband the business of selling fish in the local market in Kisumu County, on the shores of Lake Victoria. Lacking the means to pay for the fish, her family had a scanty livelihood. Later, she participated in the project of “Empowerment of Fisher-women in Lake Victoria” initiated by TIKA.

In collaboration with the Governorate of Homa Bay and by furthering the previous good practices, TIKA delivered 15 boats and necessary equipment, leading to the employment of 45 local women in fishing in the lake, Chagina was one of them. She now supports her kids and has become an alternative wholesaler for other women, who buy fish to sell in the local markets.

These are only two humble examples of how Turkish development assistance drastically improves the lives of Africans. This humanitarian approach, as one of the fundamental components of Turkey’s foreign policy, has been pursued with determination and success in the continent. Fully conscious of the collective global responsibilities, such as fighting extreme poverty, providing education for all, improving the lives of women and youth, as well as alleviating the challenges in conflict affected areas, Turkey upholds a holistic approach based on a combination of humanitarian and development assistance, without prioritizing either of the two.

In this regard, and in line with the needs of the African people themselves, health, education, capacity building, as well as contribution to peace and stability in Africa by participation in UN missions and organizing training programs in the field of security have been designated as priority areas for Turkey.

In the health sector, Turkey not only organizes vocational training programs for African doctors and nurses, but it also provides medical screening and treatment on the ground and provides free treatment for thousands of patients who cannot get medical treatment in local facilities.

When it comes to education, Turkey provides around one thousand scholarships every year for students from Africa. There are currently over five thousand African students in higher educational institutions in Turkey. Furthermore, there are several technical training programs undertaken by different Turkish Ministries for African institutions and agencies to expand their capacities. There is no doubt that when they return to their countries, these young alumni, equipped with new skills and knowledge will contribute to and advance their countries’ economic and social development.

Overall, Turkey disbursed more than 3.3 billion US dollars in development and humanitarian assistance in 2014. As stated in the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report (2015), this outstanding amount of assistance made Turkey the third largest humanitarian assistance provider both in 2013 and 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa’s share in Turkish official aid has also increased significantly in the recent years. According to the OECD data, it has reached 782.7 million USD in 2013, from only 38 million USD in 2010.

That is why Turkey volunteered and was rightfully designated to be the host country of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. Aiming at ensuring further cooperation among and commitment from the International community for alleviating the humanitarian challenges across many regions, particularly Africa, the Summit will be yet another indication of Turkey’s determination in pursuing a leading role in humanitarian field.

Turkey has hosted, so far, several regional, continental and international conferences on African matters. As such, during Turkey’s G20 Chairmanship in 2015, dialogue between G20 African countries has become a priority. In this context, the “High Level Conference on Access to Energy in Sub-Saharan African” was successfully organized by Turkey on 1 October 2015 in Istanbul.

Turkey now has 39 Embassies and 4 Consulate Generals in Africa, compared to only 12 Embassies in 2008. This interest has been reciprocated by the African side as well. The number of African Embassies in Ankara, which was only 10 in 2008, has now reached 32, almost tripling in six years. Turkish Airlines flights, reaching more than 40 destinations in 28 African countries, deserve special credit for its significant role in cementing these ties, including at the grassroots level.

In this overall framework, Turkey, as one of the strategic partners of the continent, is working with its African partners to make further advances in humanitarian and economic development as well as democracy, good governance and prosperity.
Turkey will remain committed to supporting African nations and institutions in achieving their goals, based on “their” priority areas, which will further consolidate the application of “African solutions to African matters”.

Article by H.E. Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, sent to the African media to highlight the country’s ties to the continent in the run up to the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 hosted by Turkey.

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