During the Abant Platform’s three-day meeting on June 28-30, participants from both Africa and Turkey agreed to intensify their cooperation based on mutual respect, goodwill, and understanding.
A long-lasting partnership with Turkey has become more visible in Africa during the last decade, a development welcomed by all involved.
The 29th Abant Platform Forum
The participants of the 29th Abant Platform Forum, titled “Africa: Between Experience and Inspiration,” issued a declaration at the end of the meeting that emphasized Africa’s recent progress while recognizing the continent’s lingering problems, especially in the areas of health and education.
A long-lasting partnership with Turkey has become more visible in Africa during the last decade, a development welcomed by all involved, since Turkish businesspeople and civil society are perceived as having been respectful of the people of Africa during the implementation of their initiatives there.
While speakers at the meeting described salient problems (e.g., corruption, poor equality of opportunity in education, and a lack of access to health services, especially for women in rural areas), they also emphasized that Africans have become the decision-makers in shaping their own destinies, rather than being the subjects of colonial powers. In addition, participants from Africa urged Turkey and other countries not to perceive Africa as though it was a single country, but rather to recognize that it is a continent consisting of many different countries.
Moussa Dourfaye from the Embassy of Niger in Turkey said that Turkey has been conducting its cultural diplomacy very well. He also noted that it is important that assistance should go directly to communities in need and that there is a need for transformation in the channels of assistance to Africa.
Another diplomat from Kenya, Lindsay Kiptiness, acknowledged the problems in Africa and stated that Africa should be taught how to fish instead of being given fish by others.
Sam Nda-Isaiah, chairman of the LEADERSHIP Group from Nigeria, said that Africans must start developing their own economies, given the vast resources that the continent offers.
On the other hand, Ahmedou Ould Abdullah, a former UN special representative from Mauritania, said that corruption undermines competition in Africa and causes young people to lose hope in the future and turn to violence.
Directing attention to the gap between northern and southern Africa, Ekrem Pakdemirli, a former deputy prime minister of Turkey, said that aid from developed nations should be distributed to close this gap. He further said that Turkey cannot be present in Africa in heavy industry like China or India, but can take agro-industry, education, and health services to Africa. He stated that in order to be welcome in Africa, countries that invest there should not have a colonialist mindset.
Education was identified as the key to solving all the major problems of the continent. Participants from Africa complained that education is still considered a privilege in many areas of Africa due to the lack of equal access to educational opportunities. Therese Olengha, the minister of education of Kinshasa Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, stated that when the French colonists left the country, there were only five college graduates among the natives of the country.
Professor Michael Faberada said that the attempt to educate African children in foreign languages “yields very minimal results,” and he referred to African scholar Ali Mazrui’s idea that no people have ever developed a strong scientific tradition in a foreign language.
Mohamed Veddadi, the former ambassador of Syria to Mauritania, said that half of the 60 million children in the world who have no access at all to education are in Africa, and the average illiteracy rate in Africa is 38 percent, the majority of which are women. Professor Kofi Anyidoho referred to the problems of African universities, and he said that science and development should be areas of collaboration between Turkey and Africa. Serif Ali Tekalan, president of Fatih University in Istanbul, discussed Nile University, which was established in Nigeria by Turkish entrepreneurs, and he noted that there are schools established by Turkish volunteers in more than 45 African countries.
Gokhan Cetinsaya, president of the Higher Education Council of Turkey (abbreviated YOK in Turkish), called on African universities to cooperate with Turkey as he said that Turkey has no problem recognizing degrees earned in Africa. He urged African academics and students to take advantage of the new Mevlana educational exchange program that YOK will start this year.
In an effort to illustrate the discrepancy between the developed world and Africa, another speaker noted that there are more people connected to the Internet in New York alone than there are in the whole of Africa. He further said, “Corruption is our biggest killer in Africa.”
As far as health is concerned, malaria, HIV, and fistula are listed as the biggest problems, in addition to insufficient access to doctors. Savas Metin, the secretary-general of Helping Hands, a Turkish aid group, said that although malaria and tuberculosis are still threats in Africa, there has been improvement since death rates from these diseases are declining.
Rizanur Meral, the president of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (abbreviated TUSKON in Turkish), summarized TUSKON’s trade activities in Africa and noted that they have started to pursue opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa only recently. He also said that Turkish businessmen were surprised to see higher levels of women’s participation in business life in Africa than in Turkey.
- Sevgi Akarcesme, Abant