A 10-person Turkish business delegation met Tuesday with dozens of Gambian private sector players to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations.
The meeting, which gave Gambian businessmen a platform to interact with key Turkish private sector players, was the first to be organized by the countries’ joint Turkish-Gambian Business Council since it was formed a few years ago.
Aygun Karakas, head of the Turkish Foreign Relations Board (DEIK) and council co-chair, said it had been a “very important day,” adding: “Turkish Airlines will very soon start flights to Gambia, and this will boost trade between our countries.”
Eren Paykal, DEIK’s Africa adviser, said Turkey and Gambia have not fully explored the potential of bilateral trade.
“We hope to develop our economic relationship especially with Gambia because our current trading relations fall short and do not reflect the capacity of the two countries,” Paykal told Anadolu.
Gambia experienced a protracted transition this year after its longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh was pressured by a regional West African force to step aside.
With public debt at 120 percent of GDP, rampant poverty, and power supply problems, the country’s economy still faces huge challenges.
But Muhammed Jagana, head of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce, said the small nation’s economy is now open for business.
“There is a huge opportunity, given the transition to democracy and the increased ties between the two countries, for Gambian and Turkish businesses to leverage and strengthen business collaborations,” Jagana told Anadolu.
“We realized there is more hope and opportunities in Gambia now with increased investor confidence.”
At the meeting the DEIK delegates were expected to hold talks with Gambia’s ministers of fisheries, foreign affairs, and agriculture, and representatives from the energy sector and private sector players.
The Turkish ambassador to Gambia, Ismail Sefa Yuceer, said relations between Ankara and Banjul have strengthened following the transition to democracy.
Turkey has been supporting Gambian institutions since the beginning of the political transition, and many Gambian students have been given undergraduate and graduate scholarships.
Gambia’s ministers of agriculture, fisheries, and foreign affairs and vice president as well as parliament speaker have all recently visited the country in a bid to strengthen ties with Turkey.
Fatou Senghore, Gambia’s co-chair of the Turkish-Gambian Business Council, said the meeting has taken the Turkish-Gambian partnership to a “whole new level”