By Desie Heita
Windhoek — One thing that has seemingly got Turkish business people hot under the collar is the insinuation that they tried to influence Namibian public tenders through corrupt means.
"In how many financial scandals on the continent of Africa have you heard of Turkish involvement compared to the numerous reports involving Chinese linked companies?" retorted Hatem Yavuz, a Turkish businessman with interests in Namibia, but whose artless candour at times seems ill fitted with his title of being Namibia's Honorary Consul in Istanbul.
The interview takes place after the conclusion of a three-day visit by the Turkish business delegation to Namibia, in the same days that newspapers ran new headlines on the unfolding drama of accusations and counter-accusations involving China State Construction Engineering Corporation, Namibia Airports Company (NAC) board, the now fired top executive management of NAC, the Ministry of Works and Transport, and the Turkish firm Tasyapi Group.
At the centre of the court challenge is the tender to upgrade or construct NAC's Ondangwa Airport whose costs of N$240 million are argued to be inflated. In court papers the NAC board refers to possible collusion over the price between the sacked senior executive with the Chinese firm, while the Chinese firm is accusing the Turkish company of having bribed the new board. It was also Tasyapi's public protestation that contributed to the cancellation of the N$7 billion tender to another Chinese company to construct Hosea Kutako International Airport.
In the interview Yavuz flatly refuses to say anything that could be read as an inference to the ongoing court case or the manner in which Tasyapi had conducted its businesses with regard to the two NAC tenders. Yavuz is not doing this necessarily because the case is sub judice - no, he refuses because what is more important to him is that such a discussion would be a comparison of how Chinese and Turkish business entities conduct business on the African continent. And he eschews that. At one point in the interview Yavuz took over the notepad to personally jot down points on how far different are China and Turkey's ways of doing business so as inveigh against the trajectory the interview has just taken that very minute.
He would rather re-emphasise the trade volumes between Turkey and Namibia - which the Turkish Ambassador to Namibia Berin Tulun put at US$56 million in 2017 (or N$761.6 million) when she spoke at the working session for the visiting Turkish business people and Namibian business community.
He would rather point out that Turkey is currently the only country that has constructed, with its own expertise, the world's biggest airport or world's largest terminal under one roof in Istanbul.
"The completion of the largest airport on this planet is opening on 30 October," said Yavuz, funnelling the notion that really only a Turkish company has the required expertise to build Namibia's airports at a cost affordable to tax payers. This is because, he says, most airports in Turkey are built on a public-private partnership model or build-operate and transfer model. The Turkish company had proposed such models when it pitched for Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Istanbul Airport is set to be officially opened on October 29, which is Turkey's Republic Day. The airport is set to ease traffic at Ataturk International Airport, handle 250 airlines flying to more than 350 destinations from six runways, and serve 150 million passengers, and have the capacity to seat 20,000 waiting passengers at any given time.
Also, he says Turkey has so much to offer in terms of business services and tourism. This is contrary to what Chinese companies do, which is basically to offer engineering, procurement and construction services.
"And China tends to be overpriced on those services," he says, before adding: "China is a great power and an economic power that has damaged many colonialist west leverage on this continent." And just like China, Turkey has also, as a non-colonialist, seriously entered all corners of the African continent.
He then goes on to mention various initiatives and business undertakings in African countries. But that is as far as he would go in assuaging a question on business ethics of Turkish business interests on the continent.