This visit to Sudan is the second by President of the Republic of Turkey, His Excellency Receb Tayyip Erdogan to our country, the first was in 2006 when he was a prime minister. Ever since, the Sudanese-Turkish relations had continued to gear up in the political, economic, military and cultural spheres.
The Sudanese-Turkish relations have their roots in the history of the two nations since the days of the Ottoman Empire that ruled wide swaths of the Moslem World, including the Sudan.
The first effective attempt to boost Turkey’s relations with the Sudan during the rule of the Justice and Development Party had come into existence by the formation of a ministerial committee that worked out during its meetings in Khartoum in November 2013, a number of economic pacts between the two countries. Those pacts had stipulated partnerships and cooperation relations in agriculture, livestock, technology, education, science, transport, mining, electricity, archiving, public administration and education. Same year a delegation lead by Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz paid a visit to the Sudan that opened doors for Turkish investors to delve into joint partnerships in Sudan’s rich mining resources and in agriculture and water resources. During this visit a memo of understanding was also signed for cooperation in oil production and services and gas.
Then in 2014, the two countries concluded an agreement for encouraging investments in both countries. As part of that agreement, the two sides had agreed to the establishment of free zones in the Sudan, with a view to building a strong base for economic bonds between Sudan and Turkey and increase exports between them. That was the first gateway Sudan had opened for Turkish investors in Sudan. That move had lead to the initiation of joint projects in Sudan. By the result, Turkey now stands among Sudan’s five major economic partners. That has translated into the growth of the Turkish community in Sudan up to 5000 persons.
Ten outstanding Turkish firms had effectively taken part, in May 2017, in the country’s biggest trade exhibition (the International Fair of Khartoum ), displaying a variety of progressive industrial products in the areas of house furniture, detergents, health, constructions and electric equipment. A representative of one of these companies had considered the Sudan” an excellent and promising market for Turkish firms.” He said his company was looking for “a major agent” in Khartoum.
Turkish companies operating in the Sudan now count 480. Sudan exports the worth of $24.6 million of commodities to Turkey and imports goods worth $425 million from Turkey in 2015, according to Turkey Post website. Sudan’s major exports to Turkey include agricultural products and hides. Turkey’s exports to the Sudan are primarily electric equipment, agricultural and industrial inputs and clothes.
Back in 2008 Turkey extended a line of credit of $100 million to encourage Turkish companies to invest in the Sudan and this sum was doubled after continuous consultations.
During the 2010 Cairo Donors Conference for the Reconstruction of Darfur (Co-Chaired by Turkey and Egypt), the Republic of Turkey pledged about $70 million in assistance to Darfur, the bulk of it for the region’s health, agriculture and education projects. The conferees had, then, pledged to aid Darfur with $800 million. To achieve this, a number of Turkish organizations are active in aiding victims of the armed strife in Darfur and Western Sudan, foremost the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (Tika) that built a $50 million hospital in Nyala, Darfur, which was opened in the presence of Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Prof. Dr. Emrullah İşler and Turkish Minister of Health Dr. Mehmet Müezzinoğlu). Tika had implemented over 50 projects in the Sudan since 2005.
Turkey’s assistance to Sudan in the health sector, both vocational training and provision of equipment, continues with an increasing trend in the framework of the “Protocol on Health and Medical Cooperation Between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Government of the Republic of Sudan” which entered into force in 2009.
The “Agreement on Bilateral Agricultural Cooperation and Partnership” between Turkey and Sudan” was signed on April 28, 2014 in Ankara and endorsed by both Parliaments to establish a long term relationship in the field of agriculture, livestock and agro-industries. A joint company was formed with a capital of $10 million, Turkey 80% and Sudan 20%, to undertake implementation of agricultural projects in an area of 793,000 hectares.
The Turkish Exports Development Bank has contributed in infrastructure projects in Khartoum, namely the Mek Nimir Bridge (that connects Khartoum with Khartoum North, the Halfaya Bridge (that links Khartoum North with Omdurman) and the Khartoum North Sewage System at a cost of $100 million.
One example of military cooperation between the two countries is the joint training conducted by Turkish military ships carrying 700 military personnel with their Sudanese counterparts in Port Sudan harbor, the Red Sea, in June 2015.
It can also be recalled that the Red Sea State had signed a memo of understanding with the Turkish African Trade Group to launch an industrial free zone north of Port Sudan on an area of 3 million square meters, to be implemented in two phases: The first phase for infrastructures and the second one for the establishment of Turkish industries and investments.
The Turkish Home Ministry had, over the years, established excellent cooperation relations with its Sudanese counterpart. According to a statement by the Turkish Home Ministry, the Turkish National Police Forces provide various training courses every year to Sudanese police officers in the framework of the security cooperation between the two countries. Up to now more than 3800 Sudanese officers had been trained by the Turkish National Police.
The Turkish Ministry of Higher Education also maintains academic relations with a number of Sudanese universities including Al-Azhari University and Africa International University. The ministry also provides scholarships for university education to the students from Sudan within the framework of the Türkiye Scholarships program.
Sponsored by Tika a section for learning the Turkish language was opened in the University of Holy Quran and Islamic Sciences, Omdurman, in 2012. All the graduates of the section were able to find jobs a matter that encourages more students to enter this section where 400 students were enrolled this year.
Despite the progressive relations between the two nations, the trade exchange is still beyond expectations, according to a press release by the Sudanese Foreign Trade Ministry, which disclosed that Turkish investments in the Sudan now stand at $2 billion.
Economists predict further progress of the two countries’ economic relations due to an increasing desire on the part of the two countries to push them further and due to the Sudan’s high reserve of primary materials, in particular gold, oil and agricultural and livestock products. According to the economists, these opportunities demand the creation of research bodies that could facilitate the job of project financers on the one hand and encourage the opening of banks’ branches in the two countries. There is need also for such centers to assess and draw implementation plans for the proposed projects and also there is a need to indigenize Turkish expertise in agriculture in the Sudan and to set zones of free trade in Sudan’s strategic areas.
Economists also recommend the removal of all forms of bureaucracy that may hinder investment procedures. They also advise the government to further facilitate the job of Turkish investors in the domains of agriculture and industry, with special emphasis on indigenizing Turkish agro-industries in the Sudan.