Tanzania-Turkey: The beginning of a beautiful trade partnership?

17Oct 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
Financial Times
Tanzania-Turkey: The beginning of a beautiful trade partnership?

Tanzania businessmen and traders have been urged to be aggressive and grab the partnership opportunities being offered by their counterparts from Turkey.

Three cooperation agreements between turkey and Africa were signed during the Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum held in Istanbul last week including a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Senegal and Tosyalı Holding, Trade and Investment Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding between Republic of Turkey Ministry of Commerce and the African Union Commission as well as Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Republic of Turkey and the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe Government.

The call was made by Salum Shamte, chairman of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), shortly after returning from Istanbul, Turkey where he led a contingent of Tanzanian businessmen to the second Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum.

“During the forum we identified a lot of opportunities… Turkish businessmen and investors have shown high enthusiasm to come and do business in Tanzania. Most of them are keen to team up with local partners, so it is up to Tanzanians to grab these partnership openings,” Shamte said.

He cited areas which appeared to be of more interest to potential Turkish investors as agriculture, construction, industries, energy, and the hospitality industry. Some of them were even willing to come and invest in Tanzania immediately, he added.

“There are others who have asked us to organize a tour of Tanzania for a large contingent of businessmen from Turkey. I will sit down with my colleagues and see what we can do about that,” the TPSF chairman said.

Shamte also said the TPSF delegation to the forum was highly impressed by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s zeal to see his country’s private sector flourish by seeking international linkages.

“There is a political will in Turkey. Financing of projects is not a big problem for Turkish businessmen as they have many sources of funding, so it is up to us to be ready to team up with them in business ventures,” he noted.

Opening the two-day forum last week, Erdogan proposed that African countries shun international currencies in favour of their local currencies when engaging in international trade.

He said this was one way of waging a struggle for economic independence. “I am telling all of my African friends, brothers and sisters... let's do business with local currencies, national currencies. Let's save our countries from the pressure of foreign currencies and exchange rates,” he stated, adding:

“We have to take this step. This has become an issue high on the agenda for us due to the speculative attacks we have sustained in the last couple of weeks.”

According to Erdogan, such a path has been taken by other developing countries and they have made some progress in negotiations they have been holding for awhile now with countries like Russia, China and Iran.

“I am confident that we will achieve much bigger successes on this issue as the process continues. We stand ready to develop trade in local currencies not only with our main trade partners, but with all countries including our African friends,” the Turkish leader said.

Erdogan also highlighted the importance that Turkey attaches to its cooperation with Africa, saying: "We want to improve our relations, built on mutual respect, in all areas on the basis of win-win and equal partnership.”

“Since we took office, we have been working in this spirit in order to strengthen our cooperation with the whole of Africa without any discrimination, especially in the period of my prime ministry in 2005, we have declared the ‘African Year’”.

On his part, Ethiopian president Dr Mulatu Teshome expressed his belief that Turkey and Africa will build a sustainable future together.

"After Turkey's Africa expansion policy under President Erdogan, these two regions have had the opportunity to get better acquainted with each other. Africa's strategy for attracting foreign direct investment objectives coincided with Turkey's goals,” Teshome said.

Some of the Tanzanian businessmen who attended the forum told the Financial Times that the event was highly beneficial to them as it helped them establish connections with their counterparts from Turkey with prospects of doing profitable business together.

Rwandan prime minister Edouard Ngirent, who represented President Paul Kagame, said: "We have reached a $20.6 billion business volume, together with our strong economic ties between Turkey and Africa. We have achieved this through cooperation between public and private sectors. We appreciate the approach of Turkey's proposal for a solution to Africa's problems.”

Turkish trade minister Ruhsar Pekcan said: "Turkey aims to push Turkish-African relations to the next level despite global protectionist winds. Our goal is to put the Turkey-Africa relations at the top in every respect".

Eight top Turkish credit and finance institutions are understood to have participated in the event, including Turk Eximbank, Afreximbank, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank.