Turkey’s Foreign-Aid Priority Is Central Asia

The Turkish International Development and Cooperation Agency (TIKA) still devotes most of its private aid to the Caucasus and Central Asia countries.

al-monitor Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks during a news conference in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, July 3, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori.

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turkish economic growth, turkey

May 29, 2013

Despite the prolonged European economic crisis, Turkey is comparatively doing well and free from any significant monetary turmoil. The Turkish International Development and Cooperation Agency (TIKA) continue to break its own records, conducting activities in 100 countries, where the total of its assistance has reached 1.5 billion US dollars in 2012. But the bulk of TIKA’s projects are not in the Middle East, where Turkey’s new foreign policy is receiving the most attention to mixed reactions.

TIKA was founded in 1992 to help push forward the Turkish foreign policy’s priorities mainly by assisting the development of newly independent states from the Soviet Union by offering cooperation in economic and infra-structure assistance as well as commercial, cultural, social and educational exchanges. With the 21st century Turkey, although Ankara’s foreign policy has gone through some significant changes, TIKA quickly adopted to the new terrain by increasing the number of its 12 offices in 2002 to 25 in 2011 and to 33 in 2012. It’s conducting activities “in 100 countries from the Pacific to Central Asia, from the Middle East to Africa, from the Balkans to Caucasia and to Latin America.” 

While TIKA completed 2241 projects between 1992 and 2002, it tripled that number and signed on 6714 projects between 2002 and 2010. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) made changes to legislation in 2005 to help TIKA raise funds more aggressively. “As a result, Turkey raised its international assistance funds to 700 million dollars between 2006 and 2009, while it was able to raise only 40 to 80 million dollars up until 2002.”

But even before the legislative changes in 2005, TIKA was receiving enough support to conduct its activities. “While Turkey’s developmental aid was $66 million in 2003, it was calculated as $339 million in 2004.”

While in 2002 TIKA was able to donate for development projects 85 million US dollars, that amount became 1,273,000,000 US dollars in 2011 and 1.5 billion in 2012. Among all the countries of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2011, Turkey was the country to increase its budget the most for development projects. 

Turkey is conducting projects all around the world. In 2005, 55% of its projects were conducted in Caucasia and Central Asia countries, 35% were in the Balkans and Eastern Europe and 8% in the Middle East. 

In 2006, 50% of its projects were in Caucasia and Central Asian countries, 38% in Europe and 10% in the Middle East and African countries. “TIKA completed a total of 2,792 projects between 2003 and 2006, which means 698 projects annually and an increase of 172.6% in its activities [compared to previous years.] By completing 1,452 projects in 2006, TIKA has accomplished a new record in its activities.” 

In 2007, it dedicated 56% of its projects to Caucasia and Central Asia, 26.8% to the Balkans and Eastern Europe and 12% to the Middle East and African countries. 

In 2008, TIKA again focused its energy and its resources by 53.89% to projects in the South and Central Asian countries, 24.58% to Europe, 10.96% to Africa and 4.47% to Middle East.

In 2009, it continued to focus most on Caucasia and Central Asia. 44.44% of all its projects were conducted in this region, whereas Europe received 26.85% and Africa and the Middle Eastern countries all together received 24.68%. 

In 2010, although TIKA projects in Central Asia and the Caucasus seem to be on the decline, the agency is still more active in this region versus the rest. It allocated 36.18% of all its projects in this region, 32.88% in Europe, 23.31% in the Middle East and 8.86% in African countries. 

In 2011, TIKA carried out a total of 1,473 developmental activities.  805 of them were in Caucasia and Central Asian countries, 425 were in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and 202 in the Middle East and Africa. 

To sum up, while the Erdogan government is more aggressive in its Middle Eastern policy, and expresses full confidence in its vision about the future of the region, Turkey’s developmental aid projects still signal that the country’s priority remains in the Caucasia and Central Asian countries, as well as Europe – despite an increase in the projects in the Middle Eastern countries. Ratio wise though, that increase looks more significant in African countries, which is all about advancing Turkey’s soft power in places that had no idea of this country before.

Tulin Daloglu is a contributor to Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. She has also written extensively for various Turkish and American publications, including The New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneThe Middle East TimesForeign PolicyThe Daily Star (Lebanon) and the SAIS Turkey Analyst Report.

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