Often overlooked by tourists and businessmen in favour of Istanbul, Ankara Development Agency Secretary General, Arif Şayık, explains why Turkey’s political and administrative capital is a business and leisure destination in its own right, and is rapidly developing as center of science and technology between Europe and Asia.
I would like to start by asking you to define the “brand” of Ankara in the 21st century?
There are two main axes to define the brand of Ankara: technology, and its cultural and historical heritage.
Ankara has been a center of civilization for 2,500 years. Many civilizations were located where Ankara is now: Hittites, Phrygians, Byzantines, Seljuk, and Ottomans. Today, as the capital city of Turkey, Ankara has 11 organized industrial zones, six technoparks and 18 universities.
Owing to its technological, industrial, economic, social, human, intellectual, and historical capital, it is now a center of technology and culture. Ankara is also an emerging tourism destination, particularly for cultural tourism, rural tourism, health tourism, and MICE tourism.
Ankara really has remarkable potential. However, it is hard for people to believe that Ankara is a brand at an international level.
You spoke about history, but so many changes have taken place in Ankara over recent years; the city is unrecognizable from 5-10 years ago. Can you elaborate on how you envisage Ankara’s identity of the future?
Ankara has become an attractive center to build global relations in technology, education, culture, and health. Considering this, we defined our vision to make Ankara as the capital of thought and innovation with a high quality of life and global competitiveness. Ankara will have high-quality living conditions developing its human potential; stable growth through employment; accessibility through innovative transportation and communication services; and a high quality of space providing environmental sustainability to reach our vision.
Do your immediate neighbors in Europe and the Middle East recognize the potential in Ankara for technology, R&D, and energy investments?
European investors would like to enter the Middle East, North Africa, and Asian markets through the companies in Ankara. There are many respected companies that have asked us to find them a local partner to work with. This is because we have very similar culture with the Middle East, for instance, in terms of religion. That is why European countries want to enter these markets through Turkish companies.
On the other hand, people from the Middle East and North Africa do not know Ankara as Europe knows us. Nevertheless, they have seen our potential, particularly in education. Nowadays, they are starting to apply to universities here. 100,000 people from these regions applied this year. We only accepted 4,000 among them.
Not only our immediate neighbors but also Central Asian and Far East countries recognize our potential. I have recently visited Japan, China and South Korea, and I saw that the people in those countries have huge potential in terms of their qualified workforce. They have invested in the technology and energy sectors, and have established research and development centers through some companies. Some of the reputable companies from these countries are now in contact with us to establish R&D centers and production facilities here in Ankara. Furthermore, they are trying to enter European markets through Ankara.
In September, there will be many people from G20 countries flying to Ankara for the B20/G20 meetings. I’m sure they would like to know more about the direction of this city. What is your message to them?
For B20/G20 meetings to be held in Ankara indicates that Ankara is not only a political capital, but also a global capital.
Ankara has a global potential in defense, aviation, space, information and communication technologies, construction and heavy machinery, and medical technologies. The government and the institutions of Ankara are trying to make some radical changes to focus on producing our own technology in these sectors. Through our technoparks and the incentives provided by the government, we try to make the production for tech companies easier, so that they can export technology to the world.
Ankara is located in the heart of Turkey, bridging three continents. It is the brand of peace in the region and a civilization center for Muslims, Christians, and other religions. For this reason, Ankara may be the center to manage issues such as immigration and poverty in Asian and African countries. These countries need European countries’ help to improve their potential and infrastructure. We expect European countries’ support in solving these problems. We can do it, if we collaborate with each other.