Born in Izmir/Turkey Berk Baran Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the African Union he served in Turkish Embassies in Nicosia, Zagreb, Moscow and Kiev. He also served in Permanent Mission of Turkey to UN Office at Geneva as Minister-Counsellor, Deputy Permanent Representative. As of 15 March 2023, he took office as the Ambassador of the Türkiye to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union. Capital caught up with him to talk about the two countries bilateral relations and Türkiye-Africa Business and Economic Forum. Excerpts:
Capital: What are the key areas of cooperation and collaboration between Türkiye and Ethiopia, and how have they evolved over time?
Berk Baran: Türkiye has long-standing historical and cultural relations with the Ethiopia, dating back to 19th century. The first diplomatic contact between Türkiye and Ethiopia was in 1896 with the exchange of delegations during the rule of Sultan Abdülhamid II and Emperor Menelik II. Following the opening of the first Ottoman-Turkish Consulate General in Harar in 1912, the first Embassy of the Republic of Türkiye in Sub-Saharan Africa was opened in Addis Ababa in 1926. Ethiopia opened its Embassy in Ankara in 1933.
Mutual high-level visits, the inauguration of Turkish Airlines’ direct flights to Addis Ababa as of April 2006; the establishment of the first TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) Office in Addis Ababa in 2005, first in Africa and development aid programs towards Ethiopia have been significant steps which have contributed to the development of our bilateral relations.
Our relations are currently progressing in a positive direction in many ways not only with Ethiopia, but also with other African countries. Our long presence in Addis Ababa, being the political capital of Africa, helps us strengthen our ties with the continent as well.
The trade volume between Türkiye and Ethiopia was US$ 70.8 million with Ethiopia in 2003, while this figure reached to US$ 763.2 million in 2022.
Türkiye has been providing substantial number of undergraduate, graduate and doctorate scholarships to Ethiopian students for twenty years. This also helps not only the business and commercial relations, but also people-to-people relations to strengthen.
Capital: How do you view your country’s role in supporting Ethiopia’s economic development and infrastructure projects?
Berk Baran: Being at the crossroad of Europe, Asia and Africa, Türkiye’s policy of opening up to Ethiopia is not just the reflection of a transient economic expectation. On the contrary, it is the product of a process with strong historical and cultural aspects. It is, foremost, the expression and natural result of the firm feelings of friendship and partnership between Turkish and Ethiopian people.
Türkiye’s priority to engage with Ethiopia has helped facilitate the growth of business and trade relations. Turkish SMEs have particularly started to invest as Ethiopian markets have become more accessible.
The Turkish image and presence have been enhanced by the engagement of private companies, NGOs, and Turkish schools.
Turkish companies have been undertaking major infrastructure and superstructure projects. Our investors have also founded companies producing a wide range of products such as food items, clothes, cables, furniture to electronics in Ethiopia.
In addition, Türkiye has helped to create a significant number of jobs in Ethiopia, unlike some other foreign investors who bring their own workers to Ethiopia.
In order to develop our economic and trade relations Türkiye-Ethiopia 8th Session of the JEC was held in Ankara on 14 January 14, 2021.
Capital: Can you provide insights into the current state of Turkish investments in Ethiopia and the potential for future economic partnerships?
Berk Baran: Ethiopia is an important destination for Turkish investments. Turkish investments in Ethiopia are diversified; covering textiles, construction materials, hygienic products, beverages, leather, cables and furniture. Starting from 2006 to 2023, there are a total of above 200 Turkish owned foreign direct investment projects in Ethiopia.
The capital of those projects is above 10 Billion Ethiopian Birr.
On the other hand, Turkish companies have been investing in construction sector in many different projects including water well drilling.
We are aware of the future investment opportunities in the Ethiopian textile, leather products, fertilizer production, mining as well as the banking sectors.
In banking, for instance, Türkiye has significant know-how and prominent banks, which are strongly positioned in foreign markets. So, we believe that our banks will be able to play important roles in Ethiopian economy, which will contribute to the development of Ethiopia’s banking infrastructure.
Moreover, there is great potential waiting to be tapped in the agriculture and agro-processing sector and we are ready to support Ethiopia’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond coffee.
We do our best to encourage Turkish companies to do business within a win-win understanding in Ethiopia via establishing joint ventures with the Ethiopian private sector in these sectors.
Capital: Could you give detailed information about Türkiye-Africa Business and Economic Forum? And why is this forum important for future economic partnerships between Türkiye and Ethiopia?
Berk Baran: Economic cooperation and trade relations are one of Türkiye’s priorities in the continent. To promote trade relations between Türkiye and African countries, Türkiye organizes Türkiye-Africa economic and business forums periodically in partnership with the African Union in order to regulate and develop trade relations between Türkiye and the continent.
The Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK), is set to host the Türkiye-Africa IV. Business and Economic Forum (TABEF) in Istanbul on October 12-13, 2023. The event will be graced by the presence of the President of the Republic of Türkiye, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the President of the Comoros Union State, who also serves as the Chairperson of the African Union, H.E. Azali Assoumani. With 152 Business Councils spread across the world, DEİK is committed to develop Türkiye’s intercontinental trade and investment through its commercial diplomacy initiatives, and it has now turned its attention to Africa.
The Türkiye-Africa IV. Business and Economic Forum, expected to be attended by high-ranking dignitaries such as Turkish Minister of Trade Prof. Dr. Ömer Bolat, Albert Muchanga, the Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry, and Mining at the African Union Commission (AUC), Nail Olpak, the President of DEİK, Fuat Tosyalı, the Coordinator President of DEİK/Türkiye-Africa Business Councils, Dr. Amany Asfour, the Acting President of the African Business Council (AfBC), and Ministers of Economy, Trade, and Finance from African countries, as well as H.E. Emine Erdoğan, our First Lady.
The main theme of Türkiye-Africa IV. Business and Economic Forum is “Addressing Challenges, Unlocking Opportunities: Building Stronger Türkiye-Africa Economic Partnerships.” Priority sectors include energy, infrastructure, agriculture, agribusiness, healthcare, tourism, and digital marketing.
Capital: Could you please inform us about the events that will be organized within the scope of the forum?
Berk Baran: During the first day of the forum, there will be panels on “Collaboration in Genetic Industry Production between Türkiye and Africa: Ensuring Sustainability in the Supply Chain,” “Digital Transformation in Africa: Enhancing the Ecosystem of Digital Technologies,” and “Assessing Health Technology: Ensuring Sustainability in the Healthcare Sector and Exploring New Innovative Prospects.”
Simultaneously, there will be Government-to-Business (G2B) sessions focusing on “Opportunities in Infrastructure Investment: Energy, Telecommunications, and Transportation Networks,” “Africa’s Food Security Strategy Policy: Implementing the African Agenda 2063 – Commitments of the Malabo Declaration,” and “Unveiling Tourism and Digital Marketing Technologies: Transforming the Tourism and Hospitality Sector.”
On the second day of the forum, there will be discussions on ” Türkiye -Africa Women Leadership Dialogue”, “Opportunities under the Türkiye and Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”, and “Investment in Africa, Trade Financing, and Banking Relations with Türkiye.” Additionally, there will be a presentation on “Free Zones and Opportunities.” Throughout the forum, panels, G2B, and B2B meetings will occur simultaneously.
In the “Türkiye-Africa Women Leaders Dialogue” event, both Turkish and African businesswomen will share their experiences in reshaping the landscape of the business world. They will engage in discussions regarding potential areas of collaboration and strategies to promote increased participation of women in leadership positions.
As part of the forum, there will be a panel titled “Opportunities under the Türkiye and Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)” to evaluate the impact of the AfCFTA agreement on Türkiye’s exports. With the participation of the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the panel will discuss how AfCFTA is expected to increase intra-Africa trade by 50% and generate an additional US$ 76 billion in income for the world. It is expected that Africa, the world’s largest global free trade zone, will create a free trade market with a population of 1.3 billion and a trade value of US$ 3.4 trillion.
Regarding the panel titled “Investment and Trade Financing and Banking Relations with Türkiye”, Turkish companies have been achieving increasingly successful outcomes in Africa in recent years. Trade and investment financing remains a significant challenge when engaging in business with the African continent. This panel will address important solution proposals aimed at improving access to trade and investment financing by tackling these challenges. Decision-makers responsible for critical projects and investments in Africa will engage in discussions and consultations with financial institutions, alongside representatives from the Turkish and African private sectors, with the goal of exploring concrete business partnerships that will contribute to Africa’s development.
Under the Forum’s program, thematic panels, B2B Bilateral Business Meetings, B2G Meetings and a fair consisting of stands of Turkish and African firms will be organized.
Capital: Which countries and international organizations will participate in the forum and how many participants do you expect?
Berk Baran: The Türkiye-Africa IV. Business and Economic Forum is expected to host over 3,000 participants, including representatives from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Export-Import Bank (Afrieximbank), the Turkish Export Credit Bank (Türk Eximbank), international and regional financial institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), chambers of commerce and industry, DEİK/Türkiye-Africa Business Councils Presidents and their counterparts, relevant associations, professional organizations, and entrepreneurs in both Türkiye and Africa, diplomatic mission representatives in Türkiye, as well as media organizations from Türkiye and across the African continent. In Africa, participants are anticipated to come from all countries including Türkiye.
Capital: What is required to participate in the The Türkiye-Africa IV. Business and Economic Forum, what is the registration process?
Berk Baran: All Ethiopian business people can participate in the forum. There is no need to pay any fee to register in the Forum, it is completely free.
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