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Turkey Consolidating Trade With Cameroon – Ekoko Mukete 

Interviewed by Charles Akoh

Turkey, an economic power house in Asia and linking Europe is showing a growing interest in winning the heart of Cameroon. Since Turkey opened diplomatic representations in Yaoundé and later Douala, it has moved on to negotiate preferential trade agreements with Cameroon.

The Turkish Honorary Consul in Douala, Mr. Ekoko Mukete who was officially commissioned into his functions on February 9, 2011 by Littoral Governor, Francis Fai Yengo, recently fielded questions on his main objective to promote trade relations between Turkey and Cameroon. Read on:

Before the opening of the Turkish Honorary Consulate, Cameroon and Turkey had been business partners. How do you assess the level of trade between the two countries?

I would say trade links between both countries are growing. They were fortified in March 2010 when the Head of State of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, led a Turkish business delegation to Yaounde.

It was a very successful visit that raised a lot of interest between the two countries. Practically speaking, trade between Turkey and Cameroon recorded some significant growth in 2009. Exports from Turkey to Cameroon were above US$ 50 million, (about FCFA 25 billion) and exports from Cameroon to Turkey stood at US$ 21 million (about FCFA 10.5 billion).

That imbalance reduced in 2010. Exports from Turkey to Cameroon dropped to slightly above US$ 49 million (FCFA 24.5 billion) while exports from Cameroon to Turkey in 2010 increased comparatively to US$ 39.4 million (FCFA 19.7 billion). This tilt in balance is encouraging, but our main concern will be to work harder to significantly increase the flow of business between both sides and release the potentials which we believe are there.

Which are the sectors that attract Turkish businesses to Cameroon?

There is a lot of Turkish interest in building and road construction, retail and general trade and services, health, education, textiles, rubber, palm oil, agro-industries and processing, wood, cotton, banana, vegetable oils, mining, etc. Their interest is largely in small and medium size enterprises but there are some large-scale industries also looking at investing in Cameroon. All of these are tied to Cameroon’s comparative advantage and this advantage comes mostly from fertile lands, natural resources, geography and of course the human capital.

The other advantage which is complimentary to Cameroon is that Turkish business persons are significant risk takers matched by a long history of industrial knowhow and culture. They can take risks in Cameroon; and are not scared coming into emerging markets.

They have attitudes that are quite exploratory, they are brave, they are not in for exploitation, they do not look down on potential trading partners but simply want a win-win partnership; with fairness being the key word. They do appreciate the Cameroonian culture and the local realities and are prepared to blend these realities with their own way of doing things.

So we are expecting a huge transfer of technology from Turkey to Cameroon?

Certainly, as the opportunities arise. This will come sooner or later. Cameroon must, however, be able to provide that enabling environment to encourage that to happen sooner rather than later. The greatest incentive will be getting the market attractive from a variety of angles not just tax subsidies or incentives. This has to be looked into in a more holistic fashion. A businessman knows what he wants. When there is the potential to make profit, they take advantage of it.

What incentives are there in Turkey to attract Cameroonian business persons?

Cameroonian business persons would more or less look for technology and expertise from Turkey. They should look for Turkish business persons with whom they can partner and develop the potentials back home or perhaps niche markets in Turkey. Setting up in Turkey alone would be rather cumbersome for Cameroonians. We have to be realistic.

It is a highly competitive market environment which will require much more resources than most Cameroonian businessmen can afford on their own and there is also the significant language barrier. Cameroonian business persons would find it much easier to apply themselves here in Cameroon and make money exporting to Turkey rather than trying to set up shop in Turkey.

The general tendency will be for Cameroonian business persons to partner with Turkish business persons to set up factories in Cameroon; taking advantage of our comparative advantages to attract such ventures. This is likely going to be the model for now.

As Vice President of the Cameroon Chamber of Commerce, what role do you think CCIMA will play to help build and consolidate trade relations between Cameroon and Turkey?

The Cameroon Chamber Of Commerce, you know, provides a key platform for business opportunities. It provides the information base and the ability for us to liaise with the government in the area of business transactions. Turkey too, has a strong Chamber Of Commerce and definitely business persons in Turkey know what key role such an institution plays in trade.

So far, the support that has been coming from CCIMA has been pivotal. It helped several business persons obtain visas for business trips to Turkey when the Turkish Embassy in Yaounde was not yet opened or giving visas. CCIMA has always led trade missions to Turkey and was quite instrumental in hosting the Turkish business delegation that visited Cameroon last year.

What are the assurances that when the Turkish set up shop in Cameroon they are sure to reap the benefits?

You cannot obviously give any guarantees, but rest assured that the stable and peaceful nature of Cameroon is an encouraging factor. Cameroon and Turkey recently negotiated preferential trade agreements and these agreements would eventually enable business persons from both sides to trade easily with each other.

As soon as these trade agreements are ratified by both parliaments, we would be talking a different story. There are also other supporting legislations in the pipeline with regards to bi-lateral trade relations that should help this process.

Any advice to entrepreneurs?

We would want Cameroonians to learn more about Turkey and the huge potential that exists for trade. There is plenty of information at the Honorary Consulate with regards to this. Turkey is a huge touristic destination with millions of visitors each year who visit for various reasons – basic sight-seeing, cultural tourism, medical tourism, religious/faith based tourism, sports tourism and much more!

The country is one of the best kept secrets in Europe and Asia. It links Europe and Asia and that corridor is a big opportunity to exploit especially at this time when we are talking global business in a global village. Cameroonians can look at Turkey as an alternative destination not just for international business but for pleasure too. 

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