“I wanted to be here because Africa is on the move,” US president Barack Obama told an energetic crowd at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi in July.
The president’s visit underscored his support for the idea that investment in technology and innovation can propel African economies forward in ways that agriculture, manufacturing and natural resources have not.
Yet two decades after the OECD began promoting the idea that reorienting Africa’s economies towards knowledge generation could fast-track development, none of the region’s 54 nations are yet able to compete on a global scale.
Turkey, which already straddles both Europe and Asia, is now making inroads into a third continent: Africa. East Africa is poised to become the new frontier market for Turkish construction, textiles and hospitality firms as they position themselves to become major stakeholders in the region’s rapidly growing industries.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government is forging ties with its African counterparts to negotiate tax agreements, regional security cooperation and foreign aid packages.
“The total value of projects undertaken by Turkish contractors in African countries exceeded $47bn dollars” in 2011, according to the most recent available figures from Turkey’s Ministry of Economy. At the same time, Turkey’s exports to Africa reached $13.3bn that year – a fivefold increase since 2003.