By BWALYA NONDO
RELATIONS between Zambia and Turkey have reached higher heights.
Since the establishment of missions in the two countries, bilateral ties are growing by quantum leaps.
Captained by Ambassador Miriam Mulenga, the Zambian Mission in Ankara is leaving no stone unturned in doing the nuts and bolts that are providing building blocks in strengthening bonds between the two countries were development cooperation is concerned.
What is more, the recent visit to Turkey by Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba preceded by that of his deputy Gabriel Namulambe, has given weight to the process of consolidating bilateral relations between the two countries.
In addition, the flair of Ambassador Mulenga to make things happen by ensuring that Zambiaâ€™s economic diplomacy yields results, has won accolades from Turkeyâ€™s immediate past Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Mr Davutoglu who has now been elevated to Prime Minister, described Ambassador Mulenga as â€œa ten in one person,â€ in reference to her prowess, zeal and energy in pursuing Zambiaâ€™s interests in Turkey.
â€œYou should know that Zambia has given us an asset who has done so much in the short time that the embassy of Zambia has been in existence in Turkey,â€ said Mr Davutoglu as he welcomed, Mr Kalaba to his office for official talks.
Mr Davutoglu pointed to the initiation of discussions for a direct Turkish airline flight to Lusaka, pushing for the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA), the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (ADTA), and networking with various business entities to woo investment into Zambia, as some of the tasks Ambassador Mulenga had measured up to.
The missionâ€˜s crusade to bring investment fortunes into Zambia includes an exercise to link Zambian Small and medium Scale Enterprises (SMES) to their Turkish counterparts. This stems from the realisation that SMEs are an important backbone of the economy, and if well nurtured, can provide a panacea to youth unemployment.
The Zambian mission has toured industries specialising in construction of all manner of infrastructure and those dealing in industrial machinery.
Given Zambiaâ€™s intention to expand the rail network in order to develop a wider scope of surface transport, the Zambian mission in Turkey is using various avenues to sound out to potential Turkish investors, investment opportunities in the transport sector.
â€œDevelopment of rail routes linking important exit points is not only for smooth access to the outside world, but also to enhance regional trade,â€ says Ambassador Mulenga.
Ambassador Mulenga (left) touring a construction company in Ankara recently.
Ms Mulenga also unveiled plans by the Zambian mission in Ankara to organise a mega investment promotion forum in collaboration with the Turkish Contractors Association (TCA).
The objective is to project into view, investment opportunities in the construction industry in Zambia. Representatives from construction and allied industries in Zambia as well as the Zambia Development Agency, are expected to attend.
The investment promotion forum will provide an opportunity for networking and possibly, the sealing of partnerships in the constructions sector.
TCA has inherent potential to contribute greatly to Zambiaâ€™s infrastructure landscape including that for the energy industry. The Association accounts for over 70 percent of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Turkey in real estate and energy infrastructure dotted in different parts of the world.
With Mr Kalaba rubbing in the essence of actualising the fruits of economic diplomacy, the Zambian mission in Ankara has made interaction with Turkish industries and potential investors a routine activity.
As a result, a week hardly passes without a potential investor indicating interest to travel to Zambia.
Mr Kalabaâ€™s visit which was at the invitation of his counterpart then, has inarguably laid ground for further consolidation of bilateral relations between Zambia and Turkey.
The minister who discussed development cooperation with Mr Davutoglu, agriculture Minister Mehmet Mehdi Eker, and the President of the Turkish Development Agency (TIKA), besides conferring with then President, Abdullah Gul to reiterate Zambiaâ€™s desire to establish a direct air link with Turkey, asserted that Zambia considered Turkey as a strategic development partner.
Tell-tell signs abound about Zambia benefiting greatly from relations with Turkey. Worth noting is that over the past several years, Turkey has pursued a multi dimensional, multilateral foreign policy approach toward the African continent.
The policy of opening up to the African countries which was initiated in 2005, occupies a special place in Turkeyâ€™s foreign policy. Within the scope of this initiative, Turkey and Zambia are expected to strengthen political and economic bonds, through various mechanisms and economic cooperation.
Turkey is a strategic country as it is one of the emerging market economies, which is rated among the top 15 in the world, and the sixth largest in Europe. Relating to economic growth, Turkey is one of the fastest growing economy in Europe. On this score, Zambia can source Foreign Director Investment (FDI) in various sectors of the economy.
Turkey is among the worldâ€™s leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles, construction materials, consumer electronics and home appliances among others.
In seeking to advance economic relations, Zambia and Turkey are scheduled to hold an inaugural Joint Economic Cooperation soon.
The JPC which is a framework of cooperation, will discuss bilateral cooperation in various areas such as Trade and Industry, Tourism, Finance, Â Â Â International Relations Defence, Transport, Construction and Infrastructure projects, and Agriculture. The catalogue also includes Justice, Energy, Mining, Immigration, Education, Science and Technology, Environment & Natural Recourses and Health.
For the Zambian Mission in Ankara, sleeves have been rolled up, ready to toil, and bring good tidings to Zambia.
The author is Deputy Head of Mission at the Zambian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.
By BWALYA NONDO