As Turkey and Tunisia have strengthened bilateral ties in the past decade, the country's development aid agency has played a major role in winning the hearts of people of this North African nation.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), which has been active in the country since 2012, is behind 157 projects contributing to social development in Tunisia.
The agency, which has been Turkey's flagship international development aid agency since its inception, is known for extending a helping hand to countries on every continent with a diverse array of projects, from vocational training to supporting agriculture, health services and infrastructure. It represents a significant arm of Turkey's multilayered humanitarian foreign policy and showcases the country's solidarity with countries it previously maintained low-profile ties with.
In Tunisia, the TIKA carried out projects in Monastir, Bizerte, Sidi Bouzid, Mednin, Jendouba Manouba, Gabes and Beja for agriculture and livestock breeding. In cooperation with local civic societies and cooperatives, the TIKA trains impoverished families seeking additional income with vocational training on beekeeping, chicken breeding, running greenhouses and fishing. In eight years, 355 families were provided donated equipment to use in agricultural activities, while the agency prioritized female farmers in projects.
Elsewhere, the agency set up production workshops in more than 10 sectors for creating jobs for Tunisians. Textile, ceramics, carpet weaving, date production, gastronomy and cleaning product production provided jobs and a steady income for 490 Tunisians.
The TIKA also contributes to the country's administrative infrastructure, helping develop closer ties between the state and the public. It supplied 600 motor vehicles for the use of ministries and local administrations in the past eight years. The vehicles included garbage trucks, street sweeping vehicles, tractors, combine harvesters, bulldozers, trailers, trucks, fire trucks, motorcycles, minibusses, buses, pick-up trucks and vans used by crime scene investigation squads.
In support of Tunisia's Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts, TIKA set up the country's first center for maintenance, reparation and washing of carpets to develop carpet and rug weaving in 2018. The country is known for its old tradition of weaving rugs, dating back to the times of Ottoman rule.
The agency also set up Turkish language and multimedia classes at a high school and Tunisia University in 2019 to boost Turkish language education in the country. In the Monastir Science Center, it set up a laboratory integrated into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology network. FabLab hosts students of all ages interested in technology, robotics and coding. Across the country, the TIKA delivered 1,656 pieces of education material to 12 schools.
Another leg of the development aid is the training of police officers. The TIKA serves as an intermediary between Turkish and Tunisian police and organized 44 training projects that saw the training of 892 policemen and gendarme officers from Tunisia in eight years. Along with law enforcement, the TIKA organizes technical, vocational training sessions on journalism, health care, insurance and other topics. It also organized five technical training programs for Tunisian journalists in cooperation with Turkey's public broadcaster TRT and Anadolu Agency (AA).