By: Anthony Sedzro
Relations between Turkey and Ghana are growing at a fast rate in recent times, and there no turning back in the co-operation between the two countries despite the recent political disquiet in the former country.
Nesrin Bayazit, the Turkish ambassador to Ghana who adorned a beautifully-sewn Ghanaian ‘Kente’ dress to celebrate the 93rd year of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, said six years after the re-opening of the embassy in Ghana, the relations between the two countries is close and cordial. Bayazit said Turkey sees Ghana as a valuable development partner and this was confirmed by the high-level governmental visits between the two countries.
The Turkish Embassy celebrated the 93rd National Day at a colourful reception held at Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City in Accra on October 31. The well-attended event was patronised by Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, top business executives, traditional leaders, media owners, Turkish nationals living in Ghana and friends of Turkey.
Ambassador Bayazit said: “The visit of our former President to Ghana in 2011 and the visit of H.E. John Dramani Mahama to Turkey in January 2013 paved the way for further enhancement of our bilateral relations. We indeed appreciate that H.E. President Mahama had paid his first official visit abroad to Turkey just two weeks after assuming the Presidency. This year, the highlight of relations between Turkey and Ghana has been the first official visit of our President H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Ghana on 29th February – 1st March. He was accompanied by five Ministers (Foreign Affairs; Economy; Defence; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Urbanisation) and around 150 businessmen.”
According to Bayazit, these high-level visits have yielded a lot of positives for the bilateral relations between the two countries. “Turkey and Ghana have signed 24 agreements and MOUs in various fields and there are some more on our agenda. We have had a number of bilateral Ministerial visits between the two countries as well. The last one was the visit of Honourable Minister of Defence Benjamin Kumbour to Turkey in May 2016 which was first of its kind. To enhance our relations with Ghana in the fields of military and defence co-operation, an office of the Military Attaché within the Embassy was established last year,” Ambassador Bayazit said. “There is a Joint Economic Committee between Turkey and Ghana which held its 4th meeting in Accra in May 2014 and we are planning to have the fifth one in Ankara soon,” she added.
Trade relations between the two countries have improved, especially due to some initiatives the embassy has embarked on. The first-ever Turkish Products Fair in Ghana was held on August 2-27, and it has yielded fruitful results. “We have been encouraging our companies to invest in Ghana. They have been investing mainly in construction, manufacturing, services and energy. Existing political stability, strong democracy and skilled young people make Ghana attractive for the investors from Turkey,” she said. Ambassador Bayazit also revealed some of the specific projects with Turkish involvement in Ghana. “At present, the expansion of the Kotoka International Airport has been carried out by a renowned Turkish company at 250 million dollars. A major water treatment project worth nearly 165 million dollars in Akim Oda, Akwatia and Winneba has been undertaken by a Turkish company with the support of the Turkish Eximbank.” The successful completion of this project would pave the way for more projects to be supported by the Turkish Eximbank in Ghana, she added.
“Energy is another important sector that the Turkish companies are keen to invest in Ghana. We are happy to be able to contribute to the present challenge of power generation and easing of ‘dumsor’ in Ghana. The first barge of Kar-Power, Ayşegül Sultan (240 MW) came to Tema in November 2015 and had started producing electricity. I understand that soon it will be reinforced,” she highlighted. She continued: “Another energy company from Turkey has also been working on investing 200 million dollars in Ghana for power generation (370 MW). They have already started.”
Currently, Ghana is Turkey’s fourth biggest trading partner in Africa. Ghana is on course to become the second biggest trading partner of Turkey, according to Ambassador Bayazit. “In 2015, trade volume between Turkey and Ghana reached 400 million dollars (230 million exports, 170 million imports) which made Ghana Turkey’s fourth largest trade partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.” She further said: “Our Presidents set up a new goal and directed us to increase the trade volume to one billion dollars by 2020. Actually, if we compare the figures of last year and so far this year the news is good. We have already reached 350 million dollars’ worth trade volume in eight months of this year. This indicates that Ghana might be our second largest trade partner in Sub-Sahara in 2016. It also indicates that we will reach our target before 2020,” she said to applause from the guests.
Despite the short period of re-establishing diplomatic relations, Ankara has given tremendous development assistance to Ghana in various sectors, including education, health and sanitation and religion. “Turkey has been allocating annually around 50 scholarships to Ghanaian students for undergraduate and graduate studies at Turkish universities. We encourage not only Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency (TİKA) but also our humanitarian associations and the NGOs to assist Ghanaians. TİKA’s assistance in Ghana differs from organising professional and vocational training to providing equipment,” she said.
Ambassador Bayazit added: “Last year TİKA helped Achimota Senior High School with the renovation of its science laboratory and donated equipment. On the occasion of our President’s and First Lady’s visit to Accra, we provided around 100 hearing-aid apparatus for deaf children and a number of sewing machines and other equipment for various vocational institutions in Ghana. In this vein, the Turkish companies and NGOs have been providing scholarships, boreholes, food packages, school materials and taking Ghanaian citizens to Turkey.” One distinctive architectural landmark which will be a pointer to soaring Turkey-Ghana relations is the new National Mosque in Accra. “Ghana National Mosque in Accra is being constructed under the co-ordination of a Turkish NGO called Ghana Friendship and Solidarity Association supported by Turkish businesses and people,” she said.
Ambassador Bayazit said that Turkey has undergone structural changes which have seen the country become an important player in international affairs. “Last ten years, Turkey’s GDP has been growing at an average annual rate of 4.7 per cent and it has more than tripled reaching nearly 800 billion dollars in 2015. Turkey is the largest commercial vehicle producer in Europe and the 16th largest automotive manufacturer in the world. We are also the 8th largest steel manufacturer in the world. Consequently, Turkey became the 18th largest economy in the world.”
Turkey remains resilient
She said Turkey remains resilient despite the July 18 attempted coup. “Thanks to the determination of Turkish people, democracy prevailed. The coup attempt actually united people of Turkey from different political spectrums. In a difficult neighbourhood, to preserve democracy, stability and national security indeed posed several challenges for Turkey. We are determined to overcome all of them,” she said. Ambassador Bayazit said that due to its strategic location, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world. “Another challenge of our times is the current influx of the refugees mainly displaced due to unrest and civil wars. Turkey has assumed more than its fair share of the burden. We have been providing protection to nearly three million Syrians, around three hundred thousand Iraqis and over fifty thousand Afghans. Currently, Turkey shelters the largest number of refugees in the world. So far we have spent over nine billion dollars for those who are fleeing war and persecution,” she explained.
Nii Osah Mills, Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, was the guest speaker at the event. Osah Mills said the two countries have maintained excellent relations since the 1950s. “Turkey and Ghana from 1994 to date, there has been so many Turkish investments in Ghana and Turkey sees Ghana as a good trade partner and vice-versa. For example, the Terminal Three at the Kotoka International Airport, when the Turkish President visited Ghana recently, he went there to do the sod-cutting for the project and they are working with us to construct that terminal. Turkey is now a very important development partner for Ghana and we believe that that partnership and bilateral relationship will do nothing else but to grow and expand,” he said confidently.
“Again, the parliamentary system in Ghana has set up a relationship with the Turkish parliamentary system. That again is another example of Ghana-Turkey relationship that is growing and growing and I think both countries will benefit from it,”the Minister pointed out. He thanked the people and government of Turkey for their assistance and friendship.