The Turkish ambassador to Pretoria said yesterday, 2018 has been a landmark year for Turkey-South Africa relations.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Elif Çomoğlu Ülgen pointed out President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's latest visit to South Africa in July and its importance for bilateral relations. Erdoğan visited Johannesburg to attend a summit of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) with an invitation by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ülgen said this was one of Erdoğan's first foreign visits after the election, which demonstrates positive bilateral relations between the two countries.
"During the visit he inaugurated the new Turkish embassy premises in Pretoria," she said.
Ülgen added that Turkey's Maarif foundation, which was inaugurated in South Africa this year, would open its first school in the country in 2019, increasing its presence in Africa.
In the recent decade, Turkey has shifted its foreign policy from a mere Western-oriented and static approach to one that seeks to balance between the West and the East, utilizing a more pragmatic approach. As a result of this shift, now, Turkey's presence is felt across the continent where there are a number of Turkish organizations, including the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the Maarif Foundation and the Yunus Emre Institute among others.
Under President Erdoğan's leadership, Turkey has pursued a policy of outreach to Africa based on the principle of win-win. The president has visited nearly 30 African countries, some more than once, while leading the country over the last 16 years. In some countries, Erdoğan was the first Turkish president visiting; in others, such as Somalia, Erdoğan's visit was the first by a leader from outside Africa in many years.
The Turkish government has donated millions of dollars for infrastructure development on the continent and sponsored hundreds of African students as part of the country's cooperation with Africa.
Ülgen also indicated that she hopes the $2.5 billion in bilateral trade with South Africa will increase by next year following successful bilateral discussions between Erdoğan and Ramaphosa. The Turkish diplomat said an increasing number of tourists are traveling from South Africa to Turkey as a result of their positive relations.
"I am personally aware of a number of families, groups and business people regularly paying visits to Turkey," she told AA.