We are celebrating the 97th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 2020. This year we are unable to organize a celebration event due to health measures in place against the spread of Covid-19.
In expressing our sincere thanks for the friendship of the Rwandan Government and Rwandan people for Turkey and Turkish people, I would like to share herewith a few thoughts on Turkey’s approach to Africa and rapidly flourishing Turkey-Rwanda relations.
The Covid-19 pandemic posing an unprecedented challenge for all countries proved everywhere in the world that business, as usual, is no longer possible. We all need more cooperation and collaboration to overcome this challenge.
While tending to the needs of our citizens, Turkey also ran to the help of its friends at the peak of the pandemic. Turkey reached out to 154 countries in response to their call for help across the world.
We provided medical supplies and equipment to 46 countries from Africa including Rwanda. We also assisted Rwanda in repatriating its citizens stranded in Turkey during the lockdown.
Turkey’s focus on Africa is more robust today. Turkey has increased the number of its embassies in Africa from 12 to 42. Turkey has also extended its presence in the continent through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, Yunus Emre Institute, the Turkish Maarif Foundation, Anadolu Agency and Turkish Airlines.
Two Turkey-Africa Partnership Summits have been held so far, one of which was in Istanbul in 2008 and the other in Malabo in 2014. We look forward to organizing the Third Summit next year.
Turkey’s economic relations with Africa is not based on competition, but rather on common interest, cooperation, shared benefit through business with a win-win approach. 5.4 billion USD trade volume between Turkey and Africa in 2003 increased to 26.2 billion USD in 2019. Sincerity, brotherhood and solidarity lie at the essence of our relations with Africa. We want to move forward together.
Turkey and Rwanda have been cooperating on many grounds so far. Now our prospects for enhancing our collaboration is getting wider and stronger. Rwanda and Rwandan people will for sure emerge from the Covid-19 challenge stronger.
With its remarkable transformation within a short period of 26 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has definitely proven its resilience against difficulties. Acting on the basis of mutual respect and benefit, Turkey is a reliable partner for Rwanda in all its endeavours towards economic development and social welfare during the pandemic and beyond.
Against the urgent need to diversify supply chains as displayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Turkey remains to be a trustable and favoured destination for Rwanda. It is also encouraging to see that Turkish business people and investors are eyeing more cooperation with Rwanda. Mutual interest on both sides will continue opening more prospects for the future.
Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Council and Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation have been keeping the momentum of cooperation through webinars and online activities even during the lockdown within the past months.
Turkey-Africa Economy and Business Forum is organized as an online event this year on 8-9 October in which Rwanda’s Minister of Industry and Trade Hon. Soraya Hakuziyaremye also participated.
Until our next Forum, we will be working on an investment portal and e-trade platform between Turkey and African countries. These steps will bring our economies closer and create more value for our shared prosperity.
Turkey’s investments in Rwanda have been concentrated around energy, construction, education, health, manufacturing and hospitality in the past 10 years. The recent investments are mainly in energy, construction and manufacturing sectors.
Total amount of Turkish investments has reached to 400 million USD, constituting 13% of FDIs in Rwanda. In 2019 total value of Turkish investments was recorded as 13.5 million USD.
The biggest Turkish investment in Rwanda is Hakan Energy’s Peat Power Plant investment with 80 MGW capacity. The agreement was signed in 2017. The Plant situated in Southern Rwanda will generate energy from peat that will be a major input for meeting Rwanda’s energy requirements and targets.
Turkish construction company Summa has also completed two big projects since 2015. Kigali Convention Centre completed in 2016 and Kigali Arena (sports complex with 10.000 person capacity) completed in 2019. Both buildings are now among Kigali’s symbols. Summa has also continued its work in Rwanda in 2020 renovating one of the University buildings in Kigali. More projects and investments are expected for 2021.
Other investments are in manufacturing like furniture, construction materials, water treatment, household goods and personal-use hygienic materials/baby diapers.
Rwanda’s business-friendly environment, political stability and strong leadership, its adherence to rule of law principle and existence of strong institutions attract more interest from Turkey in recent years. Rwanda is the second easiest place to do business in Africa according to World Bank.
With respect to fighting against corruption and security in general Rwanda stands in the front row in Africa. Rwanda’s performance in ensuring gender equality is remarkable. Government of Turkey is supporting, with a grant of 100.000 USD through its partnership with UNDP, a project on encouraging gender equality in private sector.
Despite being a landlocked country, Rwanda is party to all regional and continental free trade schemes that also allows potential investors to use Rwanda as a base to reach wider markets in the region.
Turkish Airlines has direct flights from Istanbul to Kigali since 2012. It resumed its flights that were put on hold due to Covid-19 pandemic by 1 October with 3 weekly flights for the time being. Travels between the two countries are increasing. The number of visas issued by the Embassy has been doubled in 2019 compared to 2018. Travel restrictions due to Covid-19 have negatively affected the travels in 2020 but with the lifting of restrictions by August, a clear recovery is observed. Rwandans visit Turkey mostly for tourism, business, education and medical treatment purposes.
Turkey’s close cooperation with Rwanda in other areas like education, technical training, security and defence industry also continues despite setbacks of the pandemic though some activities are shifted to online platforms.
Turkish government continues its scholarship program and is providing 21 scholarships to Rwandan students this year to study at Turkish universities at different undergraduate and graduate programs. Contacts between Turkey’s Maarif Foundation and Ministry of Education of Rwanda on opening a TVET school in Rwanda are well underway. Turkey is willing to keep enhancing its cooperation with Rwanda in all areas.
Marking its 97th anniversary, Republic of Turkey will continue to be a dynamic actor in its region and beyond promoting peace and stability, aiming at good relations with all its partners across the world based on equal partnership and mutual respect. Turkey and Rwanda will no doubt enjoy the benefits of closer collaboration today and in the years to come.
The writer is the Turkish Ambassador to Rwanda.