The Land of Good Hope – South Africa

South Africa, the southernmost country on the African continent, is renowned for its varied topography, great natural beauty and cultural diversity. By being set in a unique geography, South Africa is blessed with a varied mix of climates, ensuring a naturally exotic environment that is full of surprises; my first impression as I set my eyes on this beautiful country.

South Africa is an advanced developing economy with a modern infrastructure that ranks just ahead of Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy. It has traditionally been the economic powerhouse of the African continent, with a GDP per capita of $6000 and a population of 58 million. A key player on the international stage with a stock exchange that is almost five times the size of Borsa Istanbul (BIST), it holds the world’s largest gold, diamond and platinum reserves with an advanced industrial base.

The first recorded Turkish presence in South Africa dates back to the Ottoman period, when Sultan Abdul Aziz sent Sheikh Ebu Bekir Effendi to the colony of the Cape of Good Hope in 1862 to serve the religious needs of the community in response to the request of Queen Victoria of Britain. The colony ruled by the British at the time, was to a large extent populated by Indonesian and Malaysian muslims who had been brought there as labourers or who were affluent and forcibly exiled there by the Dutch.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the first significant numbers of Turkish business people would arrive in South Africa, establishing a Turkish community in this land of opportunity. With Turkey’s new government focused on revitalising the strong links with Africa, the Turkish community easily integrated into the local community and flourished in business and social life.

We as a family first landed in 2001 looking to take advantage of business opportunities in the country. In 2003 we would become one of the earliest Turkish families to settle in the country as investors. Given the growing economy and the increase in disposable income our focus was on developing high end real estate projects. In the next 10 years, in addition to importing a wide variety of goods from Turkey for trade, we have started to develop several real estate and villa compounds in the most exclusive upmarket suburbs of Johannesburg, which had previously been reserved only for “white” South Africans under the apartheid regime.

Being pioneers of the Turkish business community in South Africa, our home became the first point of contact for Turkish investors, industrialists, miners and others visiting or looking to establish a presence in the region.

South Africa for me is still home, even though it may be almost 8000km away from Istanbul. I travel often to this beautiful land, either for business or leisure. Since the warm welcome of Turkey at the BRICS Summit in 2018, we have been engaging with business communities, the banking sector, pension funds and portfolio managers as well as the defence sector. During my latest trip in April this year, South Africa in 2021 was just as alive with opportunity as it was when we first set foot in the country.

Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city and the financial capital of Africa, serves as the regional headquarters for most Asian, European and American multinational companies operating on the continent. Together with Turkey, South Africa is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and G20. The port of Durban, the largest port in Africa, serves as the primary seaport and container terminal for seven countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo. The Durban port is supported by a well maintained road and rail network connecting it to the rest of South Africa and its neighbouring countries. This makes South Africa a gateway into the broader Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, with a population of 345 million.

South Africa is truly a land of hope for businesses that wish to anchor in the African market for long-term strategic growth. The country is a prime example of a multicultural environment with strong affinity towards economic collaboration between internal & external economic entities. It is crucial for Turkish businesspeople to broaden their horizons beyond our traditional markets. We need to take our share of new frontier markets. Markets with strong growth potential and long-term sustainability. Markets where we do not anticipate disruptions in bilateral relations for the foreseeable future.