Turkey is literally the bridge between Europe and Asia, sitting astride the Bosporus Straits with a population of some 74 million.
But the Turks are neither European nor Asian. They are simply Turks; a proud distinct people whose long history is filled with exceptional tales of conquest, commerce and culture.
Turkey was and remains one of the most important crossroads of the world.
Religion also has a special place in the annals of this country. All the major faiths have had links to this land which today has an area of 780,000 square kilometres.
It hosted the first church built by man (St. Peter’s Church) in Antakya. But Turkey is predominantly Muslim as by the presence of the Blue Mosque, which is widely considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
At its zenith, the Ottoman Empire reached the southern parts of Spain at one end and Moldavia in Eastern Europe on the other. The navy controlled most of the Mediterranean Sea trade which supplied all sorts of goods to the Grand Bazaar, (a major tourist attraction today), now occupying 60 covered streets.
This is the reason why Vasco da Gama and others were so desperate to find an alternative route to the East by going around Africa in the 15th century.
Istanbul is the only capital in the world built on two continents.
This position gives this city of nearly 14 million people a unique influence both politically and economically around the region. Globally, Turkey is presently the 18th largest economy, with an urbanization rate close to a remarkable 80%.
Uganda owes Turkey a notable debt which is perhaps is not widely known. It was the Turks who taught the Europeans how to drink coffee and the bean is still an important foreign exchange earner for Uganda.
Recently, a group of Ugandans visited the country which mythology tells us, King Midas once lived. Remember the guy whose every touch turned things into gold?
The government based in Ankara, has set itself the target of getting Turkey into the ranks of the top 10 economies in the world by 2023. This will be Turkey’s centennial year.
President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan repeated this ambition during his New Year speech to the nation recently.
At about the same time Turkey was earmarked as a MINT; the next emerging economies destined for spectacular growth. The other MINT countries are Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Here are some pointers. Turkey is the number one cement maker in Europe; the second biggest flat glass producer in the world; fifth in jewelry making and first in textiles across Europe.
Turkey is third in the world for exporting televisions; first for fertilizers and third in steel manufacturing in Europe.
The country also ranks high when it comes to vehicle manufacturing, tourism receipts and shipbuilding. It is the most diversified economy in the neighbourhood.
According to the latest assessment by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in 2014 Turkey’s economy will grow at about 4 percent and generate about a trillion dollars in wealth at year’s end.
However in order to sustain this growth the country cannot afford to sit on its laurels. Turkey wants to strengthen its business ties and increase import and export trade with such countries as Uganda.
Trade between the two countries is currently estimated at $30 million by the end of 2013. Turkish Airlines is the flagship investment that started operations in mid-2010.
Speaking to East African Business Week at the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) Head Offices, Ersin Eren the Chairman of the Turkish –Uganda Business Council said: “Our intention is to introduce Turkish business people and business environment to Uganda.”
DEIK is a private sector institution which contributes towards the integration of Turkey’s trade and financial markets to the world’s economy; to assist in providing new business opportunities, help in promoting Turkish economy and investment environment of Turkey in the international arena.
DEIK has eight regional structures. There are 115 Business Councils under this structure and the Turkish-Uganda Business Council is one of them.
The Turkish –Uganda Business Council’s activities are conducted in close coordination with the Turkish Ministry of Economy and Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In Uganda, the Turkish –Uganda Business Council works closely with the Turkish Embassy in Uganda, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade in order to consistently improve economic relations.
Eren said, “Our main purpose is to bring Turkish and Ugandan business people together more often and to contribute in creating a solid partnership through new business opportunities. The Turkey and Uganda economic relationship began as early as 2000.”
Turkish investments in Uganda currently include cement manufacturing, oil drilling rigs, manufacture of pre-payment meters for water and electricity readings, healthcare (especially dentistry) and education.
The Turkish Light Academies have swept up the league of top performing schools. Future investments focus on the service industry and tourism, like 5-star hotels, more restaurants, butcheries, banking and the health sector.
Turkey’s foreign direct investment is estimated to about $25 billion.
However the Turkish-Uganda Business Council is focused on increasing both foreign investments to Uganda and imports from Uganda to Turkey.