Economic partnership will take center stage during the upcoming visit of Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh to Turkey, says Turkish Ambassador to Djibouti.
Ambassador Sadi Altinok told Anadolu Agency with regard to the visit, slated to begin Tuesday, that although the active relations between the two countries dated back only five or six years, “there are excellent memories regarding historical relationships [and] these good feelings can link us to the future.”
Altinok explained that Djibouti was always at the center of the routes taken by the Ottomans as they passed through the Horn of Africa, where they had been present since the 16th century and established influences in Ethiopia’s eastern region of Harar in particular, and to some extent in the historic trading city of Zeila, which is in present-day Somalia.
“And for the past six years, we have been working actively to develop these relations,” he said and mentioned a 2009 visit of President Guelleh to Ankara, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reciprocated by visiting Djibouti in 2015.
Altinok emphasized the importance of these visits, during which a big number of issues were discussed in addition to the signing of a number of agreements.
He added that these agreements resulted in Turkey’s decision to provide developmental assistance to Djibouti, with two projects currently in progress in this Horn of Africa nation: the constructions of a mosque by Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and a dam.
While the mosque project “is socially and architecturally important,” the ambassador said, the dam construction, duly named “the Ambouli Friendship Dam”, in the flood-prone valley of the Ambouli River was vital as it would serve to prevent floods and provide access to much-needed water in a perennially water-scarce region.
The water to be retained in the dam would help the people in the area, Altinok said, “so they can start launching developmental projects in such areas as agriculture and fishing, among others.”
Making Djibouti an economic hub
The ambassador went on to explain that Ankara has, of late, decided to help turn Djibouti into an economic hub, an idea favored and supported by Djibouti, whose government has already allocated a plot of land close to the newly finalized Doraleh multi-purpose seaport to be used as “Turkish Economic Zone.”
“Turkish authorities are now working on ways and means to make the economic zone operational. The Turkish government is in contact with the Turkish private sector to that end,” he said.
“It is not an easy task, though,” he went on to say; “because private sector depends on free will and they need to be made to understand the issue of feasibility.”
Altinok also noted that the Turkish private sector had finally started paying attention to Djibouti especially following the new term of President Ismail Omar Guelleh, which began on April 8, 2017.
“Though currently slow-pace,” he said, “private Turkish companies are taking on projects in Djibouti. They started to get involved in the business life of Djibouti. Now we have four to five medium to big companies engaging in the construction sector, and more importantly, we have a logistics company from Turkey’s Izmir province coming to Djibouti and establishing its business.”
Altinok said that all these new developments and the attention and interest shown made him very happy, adding that Turkey regarded Djibouti as an entrance point to the Eastern Africa region in particular and the continent of Africa in general.
Foundation laid for strategic partnership
All the recent developments, according to the ambassador, brings Turkey “to a point of view that Turkey brings to Djibouti: a strategic, economic partner.”
“Of course, this leads us to a state of mind [to think] that Turkey supports Djibouti’s ambitions to become a hub in the region. It comes naturally.”
Although small both in terms of its surface area and population of less than a million, and poor in terms of natural resources, Djibouti is situated in a mightily strategic geographic location, the Turkish ambassador pointed out.
“The strategic implications of the country are hugely important not only for Africa, but all of the world. It sits in the middle of the world,” he said, explaining Turkey’s decision to help Djibouti economically — a country too small to sustain much economic activity on its own.