06 December 2021

The Pioneer of Cooperation for Sustainable Development in Africa: TİKA

Serkan Kayalar, President of TİKA, wrote the article “The Pioneer of Cooperation for Sustainable Development in Africa: TİKA” for the December 2021 issue of Kriter Magazine, which was published under the theme of “Nearby Africa.” 

The problem of "underdevelopment” emerged in many countries that gained independence after the Second World War, especially in Africa. In the “new world order,” many theories were proposed to bridge the gap in economic welfare between underdeveloped and developed countries. Meanwhile, development assistance activities were launched to address the need for rapid development. In the early 1950s, as the countries that played an active role in development assistance activities had previously engaged in colonialism and occasionally set forth conditions for these assistance activities in order to secure political or economic concessions, the sincerity and impact of their assistance were questioned and criticized. Africa, which had been struggling with humanitarian crises such as epidemics, famine, and wars for many years, was at the heart of such criticism.

Even though donor countries and international organizations have been providing resources to the continent for many years, development and prosperity could not actually be achieved in Africa, which fell behind other regions in terms of physical and human infrastructure capacity. Influential African figures in the field of development, such as Dambisa Moyo, criticized assistance activities and took a stance against them, stating that these activities should be effective rather than factual. Moyo stresses that nearly half of Africa’s population live on less than $1 per day, even though the amount of development assistance that has been provided to the continent by developed countries in the last 60 years reached $1 trillion, and that mainstream practices in development assistance should be reviewed.

As is known, the global economic dynamism is shifting from developed countries to “developing” countries, and relations and approaches are being redefined, considering the aging population and slowing economy of developed countries. However, radical development policies implemented for the economic and social welfare of countries are disconnected from the reality in the field, and international institutions and organizations have become bureaucratic organizations. As our President stresses on all platforms, saying, “The world is bigger than five,” a new international system began to emerge. We would not be wrong in saying that the attention of the world community is shifting to Africa in this process. Currently, 1.3 billion people live in Africa. The United Nations estimates that the population of the continent will at least double by 2050. In addition, a rapid increase in urbanization and economic growth is expected. In this context, it is estimated that the economy of the continent will grow to $5 trillion by 2025.

Turkey is Africa’s Companion

The foreign policy of our country, which is well aware of the potential of the continent, towards Africa can be summarized as “to win, develop, and make progress together.” Unlike traditional donors that adopt unilateral, interest-oriented policies, Turkey has developed a vision for Africa based on the principle of equal partnership, has adopted a “win-win” strategy that will benefit all parties, and has been promoting the development of African solutions to Africa’s problems. Turkey’s foreign policy towards Africa is a long-term policy that prioritizes mutual growth and aims to build a common future by contributing to the development of African countries and enabling them to use their resources for their own benefit.

The relations between our country and African countries are improving day by day based on these principles. The “Africa Action Plan,” prepared in 1998; the declaration of 2005 as the “Year of Africa”; and the “Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit,” held in 2008, were the turning points in the relations between Turkey and Africa. Our country was declared the strategic partner of the continent at the African Union Summit 2008. Furthermore, our President’s visit to Somalia in 2011 and the steps taken subsequently for the development of the country were part of a new approach in the history of the continent. Turkey’s vision, which goes beyond considering Africa only as a market but prioritizes stability and development strategies, has also led to a paradigm shift from the classical approach, which adopts a generalist perspective towards the continent.

A New Approach to Development Cooperation Can Be Adopted in Africa

In line with our country’s entrepreneurial and humanitarian foreign policy, TİKA aims to ensure sustainable development all around the world by carrying out nearly 2,000 projects and activities a year in various fields including education, health infrastructure, production sectors, and preservation of cultural heritage through its 62 offices in 60 countries. As part of this strategic partnership, the number of TİKA’s development cooperation activities is increasing day by day in Africa. After opening its Ethiopia office, its first office in Africa, in 2005, TİKA increased the number of its offices to 22 in only 15 years. Now, the Agency operates in 54 African countries. As stressed by our President, TİKA adopts a multi-dimensional development approach that prioritizes people and focuses on needs in order to ensure that Africa is able to tell its own story, instead of being part of the agendas imposed on it. For this purpose, it implements projects in many fields in order to improve social and human resources and strengthen administrative mechanisms and institutional infrastructure.

TİKA aims to raise awareness among African people and to touch their lives directly through projects shaped by needs, such as the establishment of vocational training centers, agricultural development projects, the construction of hospitals and schools, and support for women's entrepreneurship. It implements projects that benefit all segments of the society and support the historical background and cultural uniqueness of countries, considering their sensitivities.

TİKA’s Priorities: Health Sector and Cultural Heritage

TİKA continues to prioritize health sector in its activities in Africa. In this context, projects such as the construction of Libyan Physiotherapy Hospital, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Hospital in Somalia, and Niger-Turkey Friendship Hospital stand out as activities that have strengthened health sector and improved the friendly relations of these countries with Turkey. Furthermore, many training programs are organized to increase the workforce in the professions needed in these countries. The Agency implements capacity building projects to preserve wildlife and support eco-tourism through safe methods.

It must be noted that TİKA attaches great importance to the preservation of the common cultural heritage, which brings Africa and Turkey closer. The relevant projects include the restoration of the Ketchaoua Mosque, the symbol of Algeria’s independence; the restoration of the tombs of King Najashi and his 15 companions in Ethiopia; and the restoration of Ottoman-Era Artefacts on Suakin Island in Sudan upon the instructions of our President.

While all countries went into lockdown during COVID-19, our country implemented nearly 50 projects to combat the pandemic in more than 30 African countries through TİKA. The Agency provided medical supplies to countries, built sanitary units and mask production facilities, and distributed food parcels.

The development assistance provided by our country to Africa in accordance with international standards is also addressed in the reports of the OECD. According to the OECD, the total amount of the bilateral official development assistance provided by Turkish public institutions to Africa from 2005 to 2019 was $2.21 billion. As is known, 35 of the 47 least developed countries (LDCs) are located in Africa. The total amount of the development assistance provided by Turkey to the LDCs from 2005 to 2019 was $1.58 billion.

The people- and result-oriented projects and activities carried out by our country through TİKA in order to contribute to stability and development and promote cooperation made a positive impression on the people of Africa, positively distinguished Turkey from other donors, and led to the development of the “Turkish-Type Development Cooperation Model.” Unlike the hierarchical relationship between a “donor” and a “recipient,” this model is a collaborative and people-oriented approach that prioritizes the fulfilment of the needs of countries through methods that can be developed by these countries themselves.

The adoption of this model by our country is certainly based on strong political will and an active humanitarian foreign policy. Our country prioritizes the strengthening of the human and institutional infrastructure of the continent not only through TİKA, but also through all the relevant institutions and organizations “by extending our helping hand to all our friends, solving the problems of all individuals, and building partnerships with all countries in Africa,” as stated by our President, the leader with the highest number of official visits to Africa in the history of the continent.

Even though there is still progress to be made, the resumption of diplomatic relations with the continent after 100 years will make near future better both for our country and for Africa. The cooperation between Africa and Turkey, which has never engaged in colonialism, changes the approach of the world community to African countries, the image of which has been damaged by the phrase “Dark Continent,” and offers new and unusual opportunities and methods in the field of development.

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