Companies from Türkiye have undertaken tens of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and superstructure projects in Africa, cementing their rapid expansion in the continent in a drive that has been creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The contracting firms completed 1,864 projects across Africa worth $85.4 billion (TL 2.57 trillion) as of the end of 2023, according to data from the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Türkiye (DEIK).
Turkish companies’ investments across the continent exceed $10 billion, and their firms employ more than 100,000 Africans.
Türkiye’s engagement with the African continent has been gaining pace over the years. Since taking office nearly two decades ago, first serving as prime minister, Erdoğan has been fostering ties with the continent, presenting Türkiye as a fairer player than the continent’s former colonial powers.
The diplomatic push has seen Türkiye’s trade volume with Africa surge to nearly $41 billion as of the end of 2022, from as low as $5.4 billion in 2003. The figure is projected to hit $50 billion in 2023.
The government’s priority to engage with Africa has helped facilitate the growth of business and trade relations. It came with a strong commitment focused on direct aid, infrastructure, transportation projects and mutually beneficial economic partnerships.
Major Turkish construction companies in Uganda, Polat Yol and Yapı Merkezi have undertaken megaprojects.
Polat Yol won a civil works contract to upgrade the 92-kilometer (57-mile) Muyembe-Nakapiripirit Road, linking Uganda to Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Trade has improved along the road that travels through the districts of Bulambuli, Kween and Nakapiripirit, according to residents. The road crosses the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, Uganda’s second largest conservation protected area after Murchison Falls National Park.
Once completed, it will boost the flow of tourists in the area, which will create employment opportunities for residents and increase economic benefits for the government, Lilly Ajarova, a Ugandan conservationist and tourism expert, who is the head of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), said.
“Pian Upe is a captivating haven for nature enthusiasts and conservationists seeking to experience the thrill of African wildlife in its natural habitat. It is also the best place to see Uganda’s rarest animal, the cheetah. This widens the tax basket and tourism industry’s business opportunities,” Ajarova told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Yenen Edip, the project manager for the Muyembe-Nakapiripirit Road, says the majority of employees on the project are Ugandans.
“Our mode of operation is managing the work centrally and delivering it locally with local people at the center stage. Our aim is to share our knowledge with the people, expose them to available technology and become a positive force supplementing their socio-economic efforts,” he said.
Residents hailed the generosity of Polat Yol.
“The Turkish contractors are very generous. During Qurban Bayram, they use their tracks to transport animals for slaughter and provide us with free meat. This is something we had never seen before. We are so blessed to have them,” Muhammad Swadiq, a local imam, told AA.
Qurban Bayram is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or Eid al-Adha. It is the practice of sacrificing an animal in remembrance of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at the command of God.
Motorists whom AA spoke to acknowledged spending less time on the road and making more money because a trip that took days now only takes hours.
At the beginning of 2023, the government pitched Yapı Merkezi to build a 273-kilometer (170-mile) section of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line from the Malaba border post between Uganda and Kenya to Kampala, which is expected to cost $2.2 billion.
The railway line was supposed to be constructed by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), but after eight years of non-execution, Uganda opted for the Turkish builder to build the line.
SGR project coordinator Engineer Perez Wamburu said Kampala signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Yapı Merkezi.
Turkish companies also built the Tripoli Convention Center in Libya, the Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda, the parliament building in Cameroon, the Dakar Arena, a state-of-the-art multisport complex with a 15,000-seat capacity in Senegal, the Dakar International Conference Center in Senegal, the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Senegal and the Niamey Airport in Niger, among others.
Turkish Ambassador to Uganda Fatih Ak says Türkiye aims to share its knowledge in infrastructural development and all aspects that can facilitate accelerated prosperity for Uganda.
“We are paying attention to ensuring that Turkish companies operating in Uganda are doing a good job that directly improves Uganda’s transportation network, shares skills and stimulates job creation for Ugandan people,” Ak said.