There is a huge potential when it comes to expanding and deepening relations between Turkey and African countries, the African Union's commissioner for economic development, trade, industry and mining said.
"All we need now is to expand the relations," Albert Muchanga said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency (AA) on the sidelines of the third Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum in Istanbul.
With business-to-business (B2B) meetings, businesspeople will explore ways of gathering to expand trade, he added.
"We live in an interdependent world, (with) no countries and islands on their own. So it's very, very important that Africa develops relationships with all countries of the world," he said when asked about the increasing interest in the African continent.
Likewise, he said, all countries are very welcome to develop ties with Africa.
Stressing "mutual gain" as the basic principle of interdependence, Muchanga said, "when parties meet to collaborate, they have a win-win outcome."
"Then there's potential for deepening and expanding the relations," he added.
The two-day Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum kicked off on Thursday in Istanbul.
Turkey and Africa's bilateral trade volume, which was $5.4 billion (TL 51.91 billion) in 2003, reached $25 billion in 2020, Turkish Trade Minister Mehmet Muş said at a news conference on the first day of the forum organized by Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) in cooperation with the Turkish Trade Ministry and African Union Commission.
Around 3,000 African and Turkish businesspeople gathered at the event, Muş stated.
The event will include a ministerial meeting, B2B debates, signing ceremonies and panel discussions in which several topics such as cooperation in agriculture, the pandemic, innovation and financing will be discussed.
Calling the African Union a "facilitator," Muchanga said a number of African Union member states are attending the Istanbul meeting, with 38 of them led by ministers.
Asked about the bilateral meetings, Muchanga said most of the attendees were "underlining the importance of the relationship between Africa and Turkey."
"They outlined a number of sectors where there's a huge scope for expanding and deepening those relationships," he said, adding that the sectors they discussed were agriculture, skills development, health, tourism and air transport, among others.
"So all those indicate that at the diplomatic level, at the political level, at the commission level and economic level, there's a lot of interaction."
Asked about the possibilities the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement offers for countries like Turkey, he said there are "huge opportunities."
The agreement creates a "market of 1.3 billion people," which means, he said, an investor from Turkey can establish an enterprise or export to Africa "at minimum rates of duty."
Their ultimate goal is to make it "duty free," Muchanga said, adding: "And that means that you're able to supply at a competitive rate."
"Because it's a much larger market, you have the incentive now to increase your investments, so that you reach out to a market of 1.3 billion people.
"So the African continental free trade area is a huge market that enhances market access and attracts large-scale investments."
With the agreement, the African Union commissioner said they foresee the development of regional and continental value chains, export diversification, growing importance of agricultural processing and manufacturing, and making the African economies more competitive, which will "accelerate the rate of economic growth."
"So this is all going to change the landscape for Africa to grow very fast," he said, referring to a report released by the World Bank last year indicating that the free trade agreement has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty.
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