“Türkiye-Senegal: Strong Friendship from Past to Future”
Senegal is unique among African countries in that it holds a special place in our nation’s heart. Human relations between the two brotherly peoples date all the way back to six centuries ago. Since the 1960s, Turkish-Senegalese relations have grown stronger on these firm roots. Senegal played a vital role in our country's African partnership policies. Indeed, Senegal and Dakar have become one of the first addresses for our country to re-unite with and embrace Africa.
Our embassy in Dakar, which opened in 1962, is one of the first in Africa. In 2007, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) established its first office in West Africa in Dakar. TİKA has contributed to Senegal's development by undertaking 186 projects totalling 12 million US dollars across the country since its foundation. Since 2008, the Türkiye Diyanet Foundation has contributed around 10 million euros to humanitarian aid initiatives throughout the country.
Senegal has received particular attention during my tenure as Prime Minister and my tenure as President since 2014. We have sought to expand our cooperation with Senegal, which has emerged as a symbol of stability in West Africa, in all areas. I paid five visits to Senegal during my tenure, including my time as Prime Minister. We invited representatives from our business community to join us on these visits, which we conducted in the company of a large delegation. We have always encouraged our companies to invest in Senegal, to enhance their existing investments, and to generate jobs for our Senegalese brothers and sisters. In my perspective, the fact that Turkish investors in Senegal are characterized by their honesty, integrity, diligence, and quality is the best indication of the success of our efforts.
Our Senegalese brothers and sisters, I believe, have played an essential role in our accomplishment by sharing similar feelings and a strong will with us during this process. I'm particularly impressed and appreciative of the significance my dear friend Macky Sall places on collaborating with Türkiye. We met with President Macky Sall four times last year, three of them in person. As new areas of collaboration between our countries emerged, we further strengthened our contractual infrastructure through the agreements we signed. The seven agreements reached during my January 2020 visit provide a critical insight into the two countries' potential.
We are heartened by the beneficial outcomes of the Turkish-Senegalese partnership in a variety of fields, including commerce and investment. The construction and operation of Senegal’s Blaise Diagne International Airport, the Dakar Convention Centre, an indoor sports hall, a stadium with 50,000-capacity, and other infrastructure projects are tangible examples of Türkiye’s support for Senegal’s economic development. Turkish enterprises are also actively involved in the “Emerging Senegal Plan” and have completed their projects effectively. Our companies’ success is also a source of pride for our country.
Despite the worldwide economic turmoil, our bilateral trade continues to rise. In 2020, when global trade recessed by 5.3 per cent, our bilateral trade exceeded $380 million. In 2021, we set a new high for trade volume, reaching $540 million. Our shared goal is to increase our bilateral trade to $1 billion in the coming years. We are confident that, like other goals we have achieved in recent years, we will reach this one as well.
However, we do not believe it is right to limit our diverse relationship with Senegal to economics and trade. We regard Senegal, the shining light of its region, as a leading country with immense potential that will mark the continent’s future as well as its past. While contributing to visionary projects in Senegal through our companies, we do not neglect to invest in young people who are the assurance of our future. Since 1992, a total of 187 of our fellow students have received Türkiye Scholarships. More than 1,200 Senegalese students are currently studying in our country, both through their own means and through Türkiye scholarships. The number of Senegalese children receiving education in our Turkish Maarif Foundation schools at all levels, from pre-school to post-secondary education in five different campuses, is 1,000 in total. I think our cultural cooperation will accelerate with the opening of the Yunus Emre Institute.
As a country not tainted with colonialism in its millennial history on the African continent, we desire to deepen our friendship with Senegal in all spheres. We are eager to expand our cooperation, which has increased via mutual visits and investments, on the basis of mutual respect, equal partnership and win-win in the future period. I believe the solidarity we demonstrated during the coronavirus pandemic, which had serious adverse effects on the whole world, has opened up new opportunities aside from bringing us closer. Our countries that share a common future, as well as a shared history, will continue their blessed march by seizing these opportunities. The works that we will inaugurate during our visit will definitely provide us with strength and courage in our journey. I hope that our official visit, which will take place after a two-year break, will be auspicious for our countries. I congratulate Senegal on their success at the Africa Cup of Nations. I express my heartfelt greetings and love to all Senegalese on behalf of myself, my delegation and my nation.”