Speaking at the Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum in Istanbul, Nihat Zeybekci said 12 years ago Ankara started an expansion into Africa to strengthen cooperation.

“We always regarded our African friends as our brothers. Our policy of opening up to Africa is not just the reflection of a transient political and economic expectation. On the contrary, it is the product of a process with strong historical and cultural aspects,” Zeybekci said.

"Taking and then leaving has never been our policy. What we do in Africa is to build together, produce together, sell what’s produced together and share the profit," he added.

Zeybekci also said Turkey became the country with the second-largest number of embassies in Africa -- 39 so far -- and confirmed the country sought to open more missions and trade offices.

"Also we are opening a gateway to Africa as Turkish Airlines flies to the highest number of destinations in Africa," he added.

Zeybekci said Turkey would provide numerous opportunities to African countries through its economy and linking position between Asia and Europe.

"The Turkish economy is the 18th largest one in the world, seventh largest in Europe and a member of G20. We have free-trade agreements with 23 countries around the world. We would like to share our abilities with our African brothers because we believe in Africa," he said.

Zeybekci told African officials the world economy had been in recession almost 10 years, and for a win-win deal he suggested: "It is not about selling Africa alone, it is also about buying from Africa.

“I am inviting you to turn 2017 into a free-trade year. Let's start this campaign immediately."

Anadolu Agency