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Tiny SEuo Tome looks for Turkish know-how in developing tourism industry.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- With its tiny population and a sleepy economic growth rate, the African nation of SEuo Tome and PrE[degrees]ncipe is not often described as the center of the world.

But the island nation -- located in the Gulf of Guinea precisely where the equator and the Greenwich meridian meet -- should be considered exactly that, said SEuo Tome Ambassador Carlos Gustavo dos Anjos on a recent visit to ystanbul.

"The idea of calling SEuo Tome and PrE[degrees]ncipe 'the center of the world' because of its geographic position is maybe a humorous one," the ambassador says, "but truly, we are in the center of Africa and our country is just a short journey away from most of Europe."

It is that proximity -- and the fact that the country boasts idyllic beaches, lush green hills and some of the world's most well protected rainforests -- which may make the country a major destination for eco-tourism in coming years, were it not for one problem: an underdeveloped tourism infrastructure that dos Anjos said must grow to capitalize on the country's natural beauty and stability.

"That's why we find ourselves in ystanbul," said dos Anjos, who was recently invited to ystanbul by the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON). Dos Anjos said the group has helped him get in contact with Turkish firms that might be interested in expanding the country's tiny airport, as well as building resorts and eco-lodges that would attract tourists in future years.

"Our plan is to invite businessmen back to SEuo Tome, builders and contractors -- we're looking to open the door," dos Anjos said about his future plans. The story is a familiar one for Turkish business groups like TUSKON, which have sought to secure contracts for Turkish businesses in emerging markets like Africa, South East Asia and Central Asia amidst a European slowdown. Accessing those markets, suggested TUSKON representative and Deputy Coordinator GE-rbE-z Euzerkan, has helped "expand the reach of Turkey's construction, especially."

This year saw the trade group's largest meeting yet for that purpose, attracting around 5,000 business people from 130 countries to ystanbul in June. The meeting saw billions of dollars signed in construction contracts between foreign firms and Turkish contractors that have made a name for themselves in Turkey's own construction boom.

The know-how of Turkey's more reputable construction firms might be needed if SEuo Tome wants to expand, said dos Anjos, though he admits that his journey here is simply "to sound things out." It would in turn provide a major boost to trade between Turkey and SEuo Tome, which indeed does exist and has climbed from $370,000 in 2007 to $1.3 million in 2011. The trade is admittedly one sided: in 2001, all but $4,000 of that trade was exports from Turkey to SEuo Tome. Whether he chooses a Turkish firm or not, it is evident that the country has room to expand -- the airport is tiny and sees just two flights to Lisbon a week, its only European destination. The country's hotels meanwhile aren't numerous enough to accommodate the island's several hundred thousand visitors a year.

The tiny, Portuguese and French-speaking nation of 200,000 would have a lot to offer tourists looking for well-protected natural beauty, according to SEuo Tome Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Director for Cooperation Francisco Carlos Alfonso Fernandes. "This is a country with 30 endemic bird varieties. Its deep forest is well protected and is registered as part of the world's biosphere reserves by UNESCO," he says.

"We have a major chance to develop our other resources as well," he said," suggesting that the untapped oil reserves off the islands' coasts will become a major source of state revenue in the coming years. "But tourism is going to be a major resource. We have the natural beauty, and we have a stable, democratic political system. All we have to do now is open the door." And doing that, he suggests, just might move SEuo Tome a little closer to the center of the world.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Sep 4, 2012
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