By Muhammed Shekh Yusuf and Said Ibicioglu
An African association is seeking to foster commercial and cultural links between Turkey and seven East African nations.
The East African Scientific Research and Development Association, based in Turkey, is working to grow ties between Turkey and the nations of Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
Ali Sheikh Ahmed, the group’s head and the founder and president of Mogadishu University, said the situation in Somalia has been getting better over the past two years and that they are planning to organize the first self-financed conference on Somalia in Turkey. Last year Turkey financed a similar conference.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Somalia in 2016 and 2011, when he was prime minister. Since 2011, Turkey has provided over $500 million in aid to Somalia and helped the Somali people in such areas as education, health, roads, ports, airports, fisheries, and energy.
Last September Turkey opened its largest overseas military training academy in the Somali capital Mogadishu. It has the capacity to train more than 1,500 troops at a time, according to the Somali government.
Ahmed also hailed ties between Africa and Turkey, saying: "Africans began to realize that Turks are their brothers. Turks want success for themselves as well as Africa, which makes them different from European states."
Under Erdogan's leadership, Turkey initiated a Turkish outreach to Africa, stressing cooperation under a "win-win" model.
'Both sides benefit'
Ahmed stressed that in Africa, Turkish goods are known for their quality but the presence of cheaper goods on the market creates a challenge.
"We tell businesspeople to go to Turkey instead of China. This will both benefit Somalia and Turkey, which spends millions of dollars on Somalia. Any company doing trade with Turkey is supporting Somalian development."
Since it was founded two years ago, the East African Scientific Research and Development Association has established offices in Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial capital, and Ankara, its capital.
The group focuses on the areas of academics, education, research, humanitarian aid, and the economy.
Ahmed said there are around 3 million Somalis living in Europe, the U.S. and Australia, adding that the upcoming conference on Somalia will be done jointly with the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Turkey’s state-run aid agency.
It is expected to cover issues of development, humanitarian aid, and cooperation between Turks and Somalis.