Zim-Turkey relations: Symbol of shifting power dynamics

24 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Zim-Turkey relations: Symbol of shifting power dynamics Minister Shava

The Herald

Gibson Nyikadzino-Diplomatic Telescope

In 2002, Turkey only had 12 embassies in Africa. At the end of 2021, 43 embassies were recorded, a triple multiplication of relations with Africa, the world’s greatest centre of remarkable human civilisation and advancement.

In view of this, trade between Turkey and Africa in 2003 stood at US$5,4 billion before climbing to US$25,3 billion by 2020. On the aspect of aviation, Turkish Airlines has flights to 60 different destinations across 39 African countries.

The framework of Turkey’s Policy of Opening Up to Africa led it to open an embassy in Harare in 2011. 

This positively had an effect on the bilateral relations of the two countries that have seen high-level contacts increasing as Zimbabwe opened an embassy in Ankara on October 3, 2019.

“I am pleased to note that Turkey, as it has done in several African countries, is ready to co-operate with Zimbabwe on a mutually beneficial win-win basis,” said acting Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri recently.

Trade, economic and cultural, has been the basis of the ties, which a week ago, birthed a two-score post-independent relationship between Zimbabwe and Turkey.

With Turkey organising its cultural heritage for establishment of relations with Zimbabwe, the latter also carries high political, cultural and socio-economic civilisations from the Mapungubwe to the great Mutapa Empire, which have led to modern day Zimbabwe-Turkey friendship.

Of importance is to appreciate that Turkey’s flourishing history was never built on the back of slave trade, slave ownership and cheap exploited labour as characterised by that of Western countries.

But Turkey also carries some great civilisations that have an abundant cultural heritage which explains the clash of civilisations phenomenon that in the post-Cold War era, that state relationships will be re-organised according to their cultural ties.

The Zimbabwe-Turkey friendship therefore provides a unique relationship that makes Zimbabwe get linking insights to Europe, Asia and Middle East. 

From a historical role Turkey is a natural bridge between two continents and three civilisations.

“Turkey is a potentially rewarding market for Zimbabwe’s horticultural products, given that it is the largest emerging market in Europe with a population of over 64 million and its strategic geopolitical position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. 

“This makes it a prime gateway into these lucrative markets,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava said. 

With Zimbabwe re-engaging and engaging with the rest of the world, its mutual co-operation with Turkey provides geopolitical advantages to both nations on a “mutually beneficial win-win basis”.

A new economic frontier

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava has applauded how Turkey has become a new economic frontier for businesses in Zimbabwe. 

With a rich textile industry, Zimbabweans are not only importing material from Turkey, but they are also exporting goods to the industrialised country.

“One of the most notable agreements signed is the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with both Rwanda and Turkey, which facilitated the operationalisation of flights between Harare and Kigali and Harare and Ankara.

“A lot has happened with Turkey. In 2016, Zimbabwe and Turkey boosted business relations by signing a MoU on Co-operation in the field of trade and industry.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), representing the Zimbabwe business community signed the MOU with the Foreign Economic Relations Board that represents the Turkish business community. This then led to the formation of The Zimbabwe-Turkey Business Council in 2016,” Ambassador Shava says.

Infrastructural development and rail networking connectivity commitments by the two countries led to an MoU on a joint venture in transport that paved way for the signing of another MoU between the Turkish company, Yapi Merkezi, and the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) on collaboration in the rehabilitation and modernisation of railway infrastructure. 

Turkey has a total 10 300 kilometres of railway line connectivity and the importance of rail transport modernisation to Zimbabwe translates to a speedy movement of goods and services in a globally interconnected world. 

Small states are great

Some pessimists have always spoken with doubt about the nature of influence Zimbabwe has regards contributions to the international global political and economic environment. To them, the “small Zimbabwe” has no significant role it plays to tickle, kickstart and sustain relations with Turkey.

For example, in April, Australia and the US were frantically furious at a very small nation, Solomon Islands, when it signed a security co-operation agreement with China. As of June 20, the population of the Solomon Islands stood at 719 905, nearly a half the estimated population of Harare. 

Why would Washington and Canberra be angry at a “small nation” like the Solomon Islands? Perhaps there are two reasons. 

The island nation has a prime location where a great nation can exert control over surrounding sea and air space, thus threatening lines of communication especially for the US and its Pacific allies, including Australia. 

Secondly, a Chinese naval base in the Solomon Islands can be used to interdict military reinforcement for Taiwan. Even so, the young nation can be used as an intelligence gathering area through sea patrols and that could complicate defence planning for Australia and the US.

That is how great “small nations” can be. Undoubtedly, great political and economic giants like Turkey provide a huge sway in international affairs politically, economically and socially. 

But small nations like Zimbabwe also matter for they provide their geopolitical sway too, in terms of providing a balance of power.

The primary basis for geopolitics is the ability to have alliances, and with the current state of affairs where the world is in a state of flux, Zimbabwe needs Turkey, and Turkey needs Zimbabwe. Big powers need small powers on their side, and vice versa.

Zim has no CHOGM headache

The growth of the Zimbabwe-Turkey relations come at a time the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) convened in Rwanda. To many watchers, they think Zimbabwe is being slow in its diplomatic overtures to rejoin the Commonwealth.

There are dynamic changes that are happening in the world which are opening wider options for Zimbabwe to weigh its options as geopolitically informed.

Some of the options include the BRICS nations hinting that they are contemplating opening up their group to many developing countries. On the other hand, the BRICS group has also said it is developing reliable alternative mechanisms for international financial settlements that are not dependant on fiat currency.

In terms of population, the five BRICS nations are home to more than three billion people that account for about a quarter of the global GDP, 20 percent of trade and about 25 percent of direct investments, compared to the 2,5 billion people in the Commonwealth’s 54-member bloc.

Even with the Commonwealth having such a population, sadly 94 of that population live in either Asia or Africa, to which 19 African countries are members of the bloc.

It is the same African countries that recently shunned an address by the Western backed Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky at the African Union. 

A strong statement that power is shifting, politically or economically, to another end that Zimbabwe is also observing while holding on to its re-engagement and engagement philosophy.

With the changing political nature of the world, even the nature and relevance of the Commonwealth have changed. 

Politically, Britain now has much less influence within the EU, for instance, but that is not to say it has no friendships with individual countries.

Likewise, Zimbabwe has friendships with individual countries such as Turkey that it benefits from mutually, without having its values prejudiced, misconstrued and violated.

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