BY STEPHEN SSENKAABA
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS that built the world’s leading emerging economies have made their mark. But with some parts of the BRICs beginning to slow down, the world is looking to chomp on some MINT. Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey are the new kids on the emerging economies’ block. And the world, weary of the BRICS receding influence, is watching with interest.
BRICS is an acronym coined by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neil, to refer to the leading emerging economies in the world. O’Neil has now added the MINTs — drawing the world’s attention to the countries that will rock the world economy in the near future. Turkey has been on the cards for some time as one of the progressive countries in the world. Straddling the struggling western Europe and the increasingly volatile Asia and Middle East, this country has slowly but surely woven its way to the fore of the world’s economy.
According to Moody’s, a credit rating agency, Turkey is expected to rank as the fifth fastest-growing economy among the world’s 20 top economies in 2014, closely behind China, Indonesia, India and Saudi Arabia. In a report titled “Global Macro Outlook 2013-14” the agency estimates that Turkey will grow from 3.5 to 4.5% in 2014.The country has been able to diversify its trade options to Asia, America and more significantly, to Africa. Within Africa, Uganda has been on Turkey’s growth agenda for more than a decade now.
INROADS INTO UGANDA
According to Lokman Cinar, the executive director of The Uganda Global Business Association (UGBA), the official partner of The Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey, Turkish businessmen began making contacts in Uganda in 1998, with the opening of Turkish schools here. “The relations were formalised in 2010 when deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç visited Uganda to discuss commercial ties between the two nations.
The Turkish Embassy in Kampala was established on April 21, 2010 and the Uganda Embassy in Ankara was established in July 2011,” Cinar says. Since then, he adds, there has been exchange of high level visits between the two countries including government ministers, business leaders and investors.
The speaker of the Turkish National Assembly, H.E Mehmet Ali Sahin, visited Uganda to attend the 6th Session of the Parliamentary Union of the Organisation of Islamic Conference in January 2010. The Turkish foreign minister, Hon Ahmet Davutoglu, also came here to attend the 35th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Conference held in Kampala in June 2008.
In 2012, the Turkish-Ugandan Business Council was established, following the signing of an agreement between Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board, the Unions of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey and Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This month, Turko Group, a Turkish driven business consortium, will open in Kampala.
It will help to promote bilateral trade and business in the two countries. According to Atakan Giray, the group chairman, this consortium will share key business skills and information with Ugandan businesspersons in areas such as agriculture, tourism, oil and energy manufacturing. The Turkish- Uganda business council has already made plans to open a huge meat processing plant in Kampala and a further investment in health services and the restaurant business. Growing bilateral and business relations between the two countries have boosted trade and several other opportunities.
Today, a string of Turkish-led businesses, including Turkish Airlines, MAPA Construction, Kolin Construction, Galaxy International Schools, Dream Villas, Turkish Light Academy Schools, Serin Ltd, Istanbul Fashions, Standard Manufacturing, East African Hides and Skins, TCM Ltd, Tanyis Investments, Little Angels Investments and Bereket Construction, are operating in Kampala.
FANNING THE GROWTH
Business has been enhanced by the recent opening of direct flights between Entebbe and Istanbul, which means that businessmen and trade delegations can travel quickly and conveniently. It is a six-hour flight, costing between $650 to $1,000 for a return ticket and a host of incentives which include 40kg extra bag and 10kg for hand baggage allowance, and an extra 10kg baggage allowance for those travelling to Istanbul. As an airline with one of the most expansive flight networks in the world, Turkish Airlines now links Ugandan and Turkish businesspersons to the rest of the world.
Having emerged from a turbulent and unstable economic past, Turkey’s journey to economic prosperity, some observers assert, will provide valuable lessons to Uganda as the country aspires to become a middle-income country. As a country whose economy largely depends on agriculture, Uganda is set to also benefit from Turkey’s expertise in value addition to agricultural products as well as processing and marketing of agricultural products on the world market.
The thriving oil and energy sector in Uganda also holds promise for both countries as Turkey is set to use its expertise here to work with Ugandans.
An aerial view of Istanbul. There are a lot of lessons Uganda can learn from Turkey to achieve its dream of becoming a middle-income country
Lessons for Uganda
Ugandans who have travelled to Turkey and through its largest city, Istanbul, have had a firsthand experience of development. Spreading on both sides of the Bosporus (the strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia), this city is home to some of the world’s leading tourist sites — from the Sultan Ahmed Mosque to the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Dolmabahçe Palace.
These iconic monuments and other sites bring home $30m in revenue each year. For a country that is still struggling to boost its tourism sector, there is a lot Uganda can learn from a nation that receives over 31 million tourists a year. At the Gebze Organised Industrial Site, a vibrant manufacturing culture thrives. With 129 businesses employing 25,000 people in Istanbul, the zone has let in several Ugandan delegations to learn and ask critical questions.
Speaking to a Ugandan media delegation to Istanbul recently, M. Nazim Yavuz, head of Multiplan construction company — one of the leading companies in the Gebze zones — said the construction sector in Turkey has thrived on hard work and an enabling environment from the government, allowing businesses to innovate and produce high quality products. And while Multiplan has yet to establish trade links in Africa, he reckons promising prospects for trade and investment if a stable market and conducive tax regimes can be established here.
Ugandan policymakers and business delegations have come back with important lessons to share and learn from. “We are pleased to share business ties with one of the most developed economies in the world,” Mike Nsereko, the head of policy and advocacy at the Uganda Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said. “We are hoping to use our partnership to tap into the skills, technology and investment opportunities that will further boost trade between the two countries,” he added.
Ugandans setting up shop in Turkey
According to UGBA, about 400 Turkish citizens live in Uganda. In Istanbul and other key Turkish cities, more Ugandans are setting up shop and working. As a result of this thriving relationship, the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Uganda reached nearly $24m (nearly sh60b) in 2012.
According to Cinar, about $20.5m (about sh50.5b) of this amount consists of Turkish exports, including cereals, electronic equipment and rubber. Cinar says the volume of trade and investment between the two countries had grown to about $30m (about sh75b),” by end of 2013, a volume that continues to increase.