'Turkey continues to increase its presence in Africa'
Given the rise in the number of Ankara's diplomatic missions across Africa, Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday his country's presence in the continent continues to increase.
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"The African continent with its 33 Least Developed Countries [LDCs] is in need of solid leadership and support from its developed partners for economic growth, social progress, woman and youth empowerment," said Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Speaking at the Africa Regional Review Meeting for the 5th UN Conference of the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), the Turkish foreign minister said there is still much to be done for helping the least developed countries especially at a time when the world is facing additional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A decade ago with the Istanbul Programme of Action, we put forward an ambitious vision for LDCs. Since then, the LDCs have achieved progress in bringing the people out of poverty. However, only three countries have graduated from the LDCs category in the last decade," he said.
The foreign minister added that Turkey, as the co-chair of the Group of Friends of the LDCs, will continue to do its best to help them reach their objectives on economic growth, social progress, woman and youth empowerment.
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"The number of our diplomatic representations rose from 12 in 2002 to 42 today, and we will soon open embassies in Togo and Guinea-Bissau," Cavasoglu said.
He mentioned the works of the Turkish Maarif Foundation and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in the continent, adding that Turkey is also expanding its official development assistance under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda commitments.
"Between 2009 and 2019, we provided $2.5 billion of such assistance to LDCs and this amounts to 1.15% of our GNI [Gross National Income]... We continue our support to the UN Technology Bank for LDCs, which we host in Gebze [district of northwestern Kocaeli province] near Istanbul to help its efforts in bridging the digital divide," Cavusoglu said.
Turkey, he said, responded to medical equipment requests of 157 countries to fight COVID-19, many of which were LDCs. 'Investment to bolster LDCs is critical'
"Investment to bolster LDCs against economic and climate shocks, which derail or stifle sustainable development prospects is critical," UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said in his video message sent to the meeting.
Arguing that although all member states have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, he said that the most vulnerable face the greatest risk of losing a generation of hard-won development gains. "We cannot let that happen. This is where the 2020 promise of leaving no one behind will be won or lost."
"We must ensure our efforts also benefit from the demographic dividend of large youth populations. Opportunities must be created so that the young can pursue their ambitions and contribute to better conditions on our planet."
Touching on the key roles of technology in society, he said internet access is fundamental to all forms of social and economic interaction.
"Access to the internet has more than tripled for African LDCs over the past decade. However, around four out of five people in African LDCs still have no access to the internet," he shared.
He called for mobilizing the international community to respond to the increasing digital divide, which has deepened as a result of the pandemic.
"International support for the Technology Bank for LDCs and the Least Developed Countries Fund should be increased such that the LDCs can achieve the 2030 Agenda," Bozkir added.