VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
A 150-MAN delegation, including businessmen and potential investors are accompanying Turkish President Precep Tayyip Erdogan on his first visit to Zambia.And 12 memorandum of co-operation are expected to be signed between Zambia and Turkey during President Erdogan’s visit.
Zambia’s Ambassador to Turkey Joseph Chilengi says the high-level visit will give impetus to the bilateral relations of the two countries.
In an interview, Mr Chilengi said the Turkish business community will use the visit to interact with their Zambian counterparts and explore trade opportunities of the two countries.
Zambia remains a tourism and investment destination of choice with the appropriate incentives for investors and availability of labour.
Turkey on the other hand, Mr Chilengi said, is one of the huge tourist destinations in the world, receiving close to four million tourists yearly and equipped with massively developed infrastructure.
He said President Erdogan’s visit will propel the development co-operation between Turkey and Zambia to a higher level.
“There will be discussions on issues relating to the direct flight between Zambia and Turkey using the Turkish Airlines, which is expected to open up and increase trade of the two countries,” Mr Chilengi said.
The 12 memorandum of cooperation expected to be signed are in the fields of tourism, agriculture, trade and investment, defence and security as well as media.
The Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency (TIKA) which has no presence in Zambia will be tabled by the high-powered delegation, and a regional office is likely to be opened in Zambia soon.
Mr Chilengi said President Erdogan’s visit should be seen in the light of the economic developments that have taken place in Turkey which could happen in Zambia through high-level interactions and the exchange of ideas.
This is because Turkey is a giant country in Europe, Asia and is comparable to the Americas. It has a huge profile with plenty of experience in governance, cultural and tourism that Zambia can learn from.
Turkey has a gross development product (GDP) larger than that of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Its GDP is around US$700 to 800 billion while that of COMESA is within 400 billion dollars. Turkey has 1.37 percent of the world economy.
It is the third largest country in NETO in terms of its military capacity. It contributes a third number of military contribution to NETO.
The country is strategically located between Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America. It co-operates with all the continents on various issues of common interest.
In terms of its relations with Zambia, Turkey remains a strategic country to the country’s development aspirations because of the high level of development that it enjoys and the industrialisation that it has achieved in the recent past.
Mr Chilengi said Turkey has state-of-art infrastructure, spending close to US$400 billion on infrastructure development as of June 2018. Its economic development is attributed to massive investment in infrastructure.
Zambia is taking a similar path as evidenced by the massive infrastructure development which is expected to trigger economic development.
“The more we invest in infrastructure, the better for the economy because Turkey has done that. Japan did that and we are able to see their level of development,” Mr Chilengi said.
Turkey is a country that is enjoying development from three continents it borders -Middle East, Europe and Asia. Its geographical position enriches the country’s civilisation status.
It is also Zambia’s aspiration using the country’s development process to bring about civilisation in the country with programmes such as the SMART Zambia and the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).
“The interactions between the two heads of States is one element of enriching our development through interactions with those that have already civilised,” Ambassador Chilengi said.
As for the trade between Zambia and Turkey, the levels are still very low and this is one of the issues to be tabled during the Turkish President’s visit.
Mr Chilengi said the visit is meant to trigger trade between the two countries. Currently, trade between the two countries is at about US$22 million with Turkey’s exports being worth US$16 million, while Zambia’s exports to that country stand at only US$4 million as of 2017.
Barely a month after his inauguration, President Erdogan is visiting Zambia at the invitation of President Edgar Lungu.
President Erdogan’s visit comes as a result of his interaction with President Lungu in Turkey early this month during his inauguration.
Mr Chilengi said Mr Erdogan’s visit indicates the importance he attaches to the Zambia-Turkey relations.
The ambassador noted that Zambia and Turkey share common political aspirations.
“Turkey is implementing a new constitution, just like Zambia who is also implementing a new constitution with new provisions such as the constitutional court,” Mr Chilengi said.
As a result of the commonality, the two heads of State are coming together to share ideas as they both aspire to bring development to their countries in a manner that is inclusive and participatory.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka