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Turkey has approached the Africa continent with a win-win policy, said Turkey’s former customs and trade minister on Thursday.

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Addressing a panel discussion at Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking — known by its Turkish initials SDE –, Bulent Tufenkci highlighted the historical significance of the Horn of Africa for Turkey.

“Turkey not only provides security by hampering the pirate activities in the continent but also provides humanitarian aid,” he said, adding that Turkey approached Africa with a win-win policy.

After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Ethiopia in 2011, the relations between countries gained momentum, Tufenkci said.

He stressed that Turkey organized an aid campaign initiated by the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and supported needy people in Ethiopia with nearly $1 billion.

On the trade relations between the two countries, Tufenkci said Turkey’s export to Ethiopia stood at $347 billion while imports from the East African country was only $26 billion.

Mentioning Turkey’s trade relations with Somalia, he said Turkey’s exports hit $221 billion in the first 11 months of 2019, while the country’s import from Somalia was $6.3 billion.

Retired Turkish Ambassador Numan Hazar, who also took part in the preparation of the Africa Action Plan adopted in 1998, praised Ethiopia’s efforts for decolonization.

Referring to the TIKA’s activities in Ethiopia, he said TIKA held technical assistance programs for Ethiopia, especially on water, following Turkey’s policy of extending to Africa.

He also stressed Turkey’s efforts for the peace-building process in Somalia besides the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

The UN mission in Somalia, set up in June 2013, is tasked with securing humanitarian relief in the famine-hit country and monitoring the cease-fire of the Somali civil war.

Also speaking at the panel discussion, Olgan Bekar, Turkey’s special representative for Somalia and Somaliland, said the trade war between the U.S. and China highly affected the region.

Bekar said the U.S. considers China as a threat since China aims to seize ports in the Horn of Africa with its Belt and Road project, which is an ambitious project to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks to boost trade and stimulate economic growth.

The Africa policy of the U.S. aims to hinder China’s influence in the Horn of Africa, he added.

President Donald Trump imposed wave after wave of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and China responded in kind.

To date, the U.S. has imposed tariffs on $360 billion of Chinese imports.

Enver Arpa, head of the Institute of Eastern and African Studies at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, for his part, touched on the issue of Sudan conflict.

“Nearly one million people lost their lives due to the conflict in Sudan,” he said, adding that 98% of people voted in favor of the 2011 South Sudanese independence referendum.

As northern Sudan lost its oil revenues, an economic crisis emerged in the country which led to a %100 gap in the foreign trade deficit.

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