türkçe links to original Turkish article
(Milliyet Newspaper, 30 January 2017)
//ed. note: this is a column by Abdullah Karakuş and provides a
fresh, first-hand look at this mysterious island-nation.//
The capital of one of the countries we visited on the recent African trip
of President Erdoğan is Antananarivo, on the world's fourth largest
island, Madagascar. Everyone on the trip was curious about the island
because of the animated film of the same name and its loveable animals.
However, as soon as we landed on the island the loveable animals we
expected to see didn't meet us. Instead, we were met my hordes of
mosquitoes. The ceiling of the hotel we stayed at was covered with them.
We couldn't sleep without putting on mosquito repellant all over our
bodies in this place where malaria is still a great danger.
Maybe if you use a magnifying glass you can see the mosquitoes.
Most of the African nations were subjected to European exploitation but
Madagascar's history is a bit different. Moslem Arabs established trading
colonies in the island's north in the 14th century. In the 17th century,
European pirates looted and pillaged the island. The Moslems living on
Madagascar prayed the Koran for us during Turkey's war of independence.
There are more Chinese here now than in Mozambique. When I asked
why, I was told that the Chinese in Madagascar didn't just come for
business investment like they have in Mozambique. But there are many
more Indians, Malays and Indonesians here, making Madagascar's
ethnic make-up quite different than other African nations.
There has been a marked increase in the island's Chinese population in
recent years. The following groups populate Madagascar: Malay-
Indonesian, a mix of African-Malay-Indonesian and Arabs, Indians,
Creoles and Comoro Islanders. It's as if the island has become a
melting pot of Asians, Africans and Europeans. 52% of the 25 million
islanders follow local religions, 41% are Christians and 7% are Moslems.
While roaming the streets we saw people pulling cargo carts, 2 people
in front and 2 in back. Youths were playing ball on a flat field and
women washed clothes on the river bank. The river does not look to
be particularly clean.
The first time they saw Turks.
We went to a small shopping center in the capital but we were in for
sticker-shock: small bags were being sold for 500 USD. They told us
that Westerners are the hoped-for buyers of these expensive items.
Traffic is dense in Madagascar - it takes hours to get anywhere. When
we set out to cover President Erdoğan's official events our driver said
he was taking a short-cut and headed toward the mountains. Along
this route we saw impoverished people. And since there's no
infrastructure water accumulates everywhere.
The main exports of the island are coffee, vanilla, shelled sea creatures,
cocoa and oil products. Madagascar is the world's biggest producer
of vanilla. The island has 5,600 kilometers of coastline but the
tourism infrastructure, roads and hotels are inadequate or nonexistant.
We understood this from the hotel we stayed in.
150 Turkish businessmen came along on President Erdoğan's visit and
there are many areas where they can make investments on the island.
My impression from the President's 3-nation African tour (Tanzania,
Mozambique and Madagascar) is that such visits are very important
markers for the future of both Turks and Africans.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) has been
implementing projects on Madagascar since 2009, by, for example,
providing materials for the 10% of the island's women who earn a
living from handicrafts. TİKA also refurbished the National Women's
Handicrafts Center building.
TİKA has given medical material and equipment for dentistry schools
in two university hospitals in two cities, along with an ambulance.
Other interesting TİKA projects have been support for chefs and a
sewing center. TİKA rehabilitated a birthing residence and provided
10 battery-operated wheelchairs for needy recipients.
TİKA see recent TNT reporting on TİKA's activities in nearby