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  • Writer's pictureÖztürk Holding

It is necessary to meet the heads of state in Africa

Updated: Jan 9

3 September 2022, Issue 105

Öztürk Holding, which has undertaken important projects in the international arena, managed to rank 18th in the ENR 250 list with the projects it has undertaken, especially in the African market. Öztürk Holding Chairman Yusuf Öztürk, to whom we directed our questions to learn about the achievements, made important statements about the challenging African market.

How did the pandemic process affect the African market?

It would not be true if we say that the pandemic process has negatively affected the African market commercially. Because all African countries are almost self-sufficient markets. It is a market that has been forgotten for a long time. Colonies took over these countries, but they did not take care of the society, they did not value the society. When the French, British or Portuguese took over as colonies, they were not interested in any development. If you look at the history of Africa, it is a continent that the Ottoman Empire valued and did not collect taxes for the first time. They somehow managed to survive during the pandemic with the products they produced. People in Africa are not a consumer society like in developed countries. They have no desire to buy a vehicle or live luxuriously. In them, friendship relations, kinship relations, and social relations between the society and each other are very high. The pandemic process may have stopped African countries from taking modern steps. This brought about a better process for them. Because African countries do not want to develop economically. Because you can enrich society, but making it sustainable is another matter. Today, you buy the latest model phone for children in Turkey, they want a new model before the phone gets old. With the inflation problem in Turkey, when you give an old model phone instead of the latest model phone, you are not taking the phone away from that child, you are also taking away his freedom or happiness. None of these exist in Africa and African society is afraid of these developments. When you look at African countries, they seem very poor, but the reality is not like that. All of them have great underground riches. These are countries where there are precious metals such as gold mines, precious stones and chrome.

Can African young people develop their countries economically?

I don't know if our generation Z is the same as the generation Z there. Unfortunately, children in Africa do not have light like our children. I don't think they will develop like Türkiye or European countries. When underdeveloped countries want to progress, they acquire the latest technology. Therefore, after ten years, they may seem to be ahead of us economically, but they will always be 50 years behind us socio-economically. Because they cannot suddenly bring themselves to the same level as their contemporaries. Ten years ago, I brought the ministers of several countries in Africa to tour the BEKO factory in Turkey. Because they thought the BEKO brand was a Belgian product, I wanted to show them around the factory after getting approval from the late Mustafa Koç. Although their ministers have seen at least a few countries, they do not even know things that you would consider very simple. If the ministers regarding the future of Africa are like this, when it comes to the public, you realize that the development is very backward. You can see tall buildings or modern buildings in city centers in many African countries. But when you go 12 km away from the city, there is no water, no electricity, they live in shacks. Therefore, it is necessary to know Africa well.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the stadium in Senegal and they set a target of 75 billion dollars for Africa-Turkey trade relations. Do you think there is such a potential?

In fact, the potential is well over $75 billion. Because there is nothing in all of Africa. They have no structure other than a few buildings in the city center. There is a housing deficit, there are no roads, no airports, no train lines, no hospitals. In this respect, our President's 75 billion dollar target may even be valid only for Senegal. This figure is sufficient even for the capital of Senegal and a few cities. Because they don't have infrastructure. Most importantly, they have no electrical infrastructure. Because there is no energy, foreign investors cannot come and invest. In this regard, they receive support from Karadeniz Holding's energy ships. Think about it, they even receive energy support from the ship. Then they have needs such as transportation, education, health and housing. The economic situation in Sub-Saharan African countries is also better. When you look at Lower Africa, only the Republic of South Africa has a good economic situation. The economies of 45 countries are very bad. Since there is gold and precious stones in the Republic of South Africa, large companies are established there, the Jewish lobby is strong in the country, and Americans are strong in the region. That's why no one sees South Africa as an African country. The best thing about Africa is that everyone speaks three languages. Even in the most underdeveloped country, people speak their own languages, French and English.

Can it be said that Africa is a risky environment for investors?

The first thing foreign investors look at is security. But at this point what security question arises? If you ask, life safety or legal security, I think legal security is more important. It is necessary to look at which legal system they are subject to and how the law works. When I go to a new country, I immediately look at the legal system and monetary policies. When you do a business, I check whether you can take your profits back to your own country. On the other hand, there was a coup and a new administration came with a military coup, I don't care about that. Imagine that there was a coup attempt in Turkey in the 21st century. Therefore, this situation is valid for every country.

How do you protect your work in such a situation?

In any country where I will do business, I want to meet with the head of state of that country first. Because we know that everything is between his lips. This is Africa, they have just started to become a state. Therefore, they do not know anything technically. That's why it is necessary to meet the head of state first.

Is Turkey a strong country in terms of African countries, do we have a say?

Türkiye is a very good role model for them. We are role models in many fields such as education, health, transportation, modernity and textile. Turkey has power in the region, it has embassies, but there are governments with 100 parties. Therefore, being the dominant power in these regions is not an easy thing.

After July 15, the President closed FETO schools in Africa, but before everyone was saying that they were the dominant power in the region, how could they become the dominant power?

FETO was not dominant in the region. They just said they had schools. There were no Turkish activities in their schools, they generally had French teachers. Now schools are closed. Before, FETO did not have a large trade volume in the region. Maybe we, as Öztürk Holding, did not encounter them because we were involved in big projects. We have always participated in tenders where we agreed on certain funds and provided the financing. But I gave an interview to Sabah newspaper in Turkey and said that I did not see any great success of FETO and that they did not demand anything from me. I was even assassinated after this. In 2016, I was assassinated by an on-duty police officer. For this reason, I stopped our structuring in Turkey. I have never participated in public tenders in Turkey, I have never benefited from the public sector, I have not received a loan or incentive, I have not even visited our embassies. Our company headquarters is in Dubai. We have a partnership with the Al Maktoum family in Oman with the brother of the Emir of Oman, MOHAMED ABDULLA HAMAD AL BUSAIDY. We work with their power and the financial power behind them. We work with international funds.

Could you tell us about the projects you have carried out in the region as Öztürk Holding?

We are one of the companies that have proven themselves. We build pipelines, we built power plants, we established thermal power plants. We have done hospital work, we are building roads in Sudan. We had a meeting with our President and explained our problems. They also said that they had identified this terrorist organization. They also wanted us to invest in Turkey. We will invite them to the opening of our project in South Sudan. I hope they will attend the opening. Again, we are doing a city project around the river in Benin, Africa, and we will establish cement terminals in two different African countries. We do not reflect these to the press. My father is a retired officer, I am a military child. We spent our whole life around the Turkish flag. But some groups did not like our work. As Öztürk Holding LLC, we were included in ENR's list of the world's largest contractors. In that work, we came first in the Turkish Contractors Association. As such, we had problems with the contractors' union. Although we would not need such work under normal circumstances, we experienced problems. They complained about our company to ENR management. We had very unfortunate conversations with people in the Ministry of Economy. In Turkey, the President gave awards to the contractors who entered the ENR list every year, but in 2015, they did not even hold a ceremony to prevent us from receiving awards. The award ceremony, which is held every year, was not held that year because we would be given a plaque. I just want to convey this: I did not step on anyone's toes, I did not touch anyone's bread, I did not take away the work of any company. They came at me using state institutions.

Where did they assassinate you? Did you file a lawsuit?

A university will be established in Istanbul, they asked for financial support. We became financial partners to provide support. We attended the YÖK meeting in Ankara. After leaving the YÖK meeting, we decided to return to Istanbul by car. A vehicle got stuck behind us in the Gerede area. First, they tried to hit our vehicle and make it roll over. When they failed, they shot at the vehicle eight times. Then we went to the police station in Gerede and asked for help. All of these are registered and this person was arrested by the court. What upsets me is that a state police officer on duty is doing this and trying to eliminate people like mercenaries.

As a Dubai-based company, how do you see Turkey's commercial relationship with the United Arab Emirates?

Relations between the United Arab Emirates and Türkiye were dull for a while in the past. But with the initiative of the President, these problems were solved. It is not the right approach to remain at odds with such countries. These countries are the source of the whole world. Today, if Saudi Arabia withdraws its capital from the stock market in the USA, there will be no such thing as a stock market. The USA knows this very well. People in the United Arab Emirates are very touchy people. That's why you need to be careful. UAE is a very big market for Türkiye. They love Turkey very much, they want to come here. Turkish contractors are trusted all over the world, and when participating in a tender, every country gives priority to Turkish contractors. Because when Turks start a job, they finish it. Everyone has the same opinion on this issue. In that respect, we are doing very successful work. Our only problem is that when we go to a country, we try to destroy another Turkish businessman or take the job he has. I have seen that in some countries, Turkish businessmen complain about another Turkish businessman to that state and try to take the job they have. However, we need to take down companies from other countries. We see that in more than a thousand files in Dubai alone, a Turkish company has taken another Turkish company to court.

For a while, they said let's operate a mining area in Africa and get contracting work in return. Can such studies be done?

Makes. We are working on it too. We are working on this issue with South Sudan and Sudan regarding the gold mine. We have an agreement worth 8.5 billion dollars in Northern Sudan. We also work with minerals other than gold. Apart from contracting, we also work in the field of defense industry. You need to go to Africa with such projects. Chinese companies are currently working like this. China buys minerals and gives products such as vehicles, food or oil in return.

Finally, we are representatives of the 2000-year-old Turkish state tradition, who know how to manage and produce all over the world. We have no borders, I invite all our Turkish businessmen to explore and conquer the untraveled geographies of the world. Our slogan and motto is "WE ARE OVERSEAS TURKS". SEPTEMBER 2022

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