Guest Post: Thoughts on Turkey and my trip to Istanbul

Authors: by Edem Seshie
Source: Guest Post

Darden's Global Business Experiences (GBE) are an incredible opportunity to experience a new country with a group of peers. This past spring students from Darden visited countries ranging from Istanbul to South Africa and gained value experiences and insights. We asked First Year student Edem Seshie to share a bit about his experiences and what he learned during his trip to Turkey.


The sense of new hopes rising out of old gloom is as palpable and obvious as the new architecture and skyscrapers rising out of the ruins of ancient Constantinople. There is such enthusiastic optimism among Turks about the future of Turkey, and so much of it cast in the light of Turkey returning to its former glory in a modern world, that you might just be left feeling like most people recall the glory of the Ottoman empire from memory rather than envision it from history.

But it is not hard to see why! Circled by what is left of the Roman walls that used to protect Constantinople from invaders, Istanbul is an orchestra of old and new tones; Timeless monuments and their stumps blend rather comfortably with modern glass as dual carriage roads run under roman aqueducts and turn unexpectedly into narrow pavements that were probably made for horses and carriages but now serve as shortcuts around traffic for knowing locals.

Within walking distance of each lie the exaggerated magnificence of the Blue mosque and the underestimated mystique of the Hagia Sophia, while the engineering genius of the Justinian cisterns offers a practical contrast to the celestial aura of such iconic religious edifices… But Turkey is not all about old monuments and new physical structures. I went to Turkey as much to see what an emerging market looked and felt like while it was still emerging as to see the vestiges of an ancient civilization. 

Turkey is probably better known today for Turkish airlines than for its rich history.
Turkey is doing well for itself, recovering from successive financial crises of its own, it has not failed to learn the lessons that come out of a crises; in fact some thought leaders hold the opinion that those crises saved Turkey from itself. I agree.

Today Turkey holds itself to and meets the Maastricht criteria while most of the countries that developed it are yet to follow. It also has a very well regulated banking sector. The state is exiting most of the businesses it controls even though it still retains some interest in most. At a nominal growth rate of 7.4% in 2012, Turkish GDP continues to grow fast and incomes have nearly doubled in the last decade.

The banking sector remains a large component of Turkish GDP, with private sector credit at nearly 70% of GDP in 2011 according to the WorldBank. Agriculture remains the largest employer, accounting for roughly 30% of employment, and while economic institutions are credited with doing a good job of monetary policy, Turkey's reliance on oil imports means there are powerful exogenous pulls on inflation beyond monetary policy. 

Women are a very active part of Turkish economy; the largest bank in Turkey has more female employees than male employees, and not just in low to middle management positions.

Some of Turkey's bolder ambitions include replacing Dubai as the new financial hub of the Middle East. It also includes a new international airport at a cost of 7 billion Euros and a capacity of 90 million people initially, to eventually rise to 150 million passengers a year. Europe's busiest airport (Heathrow) currently handles roughly 70 million people and the busiest airport in the world handles less than 100 million people. On the other hand, traffic at Turkey's main airport, Ataturk international airport rose by 20% to 45 million people last year alone. As to whether these are achievable ambitions or illusions of grandeur, only time will tell.

Turkey's institutions of state are now more solidly civilian and there's every reason to believe that Turkish democracy will thrive, even if the long and unending trial of some top military officials is a black box that even the most educated in Turkey are unable to see through. Things are looking good for Turkey, with a very young demographic (about 60% of the population is younger than 35), it has the second largest army in NATO and is now a more important trading partner to the USA than Russia (even though that may be due mainly to airplane imports).

With Europe mired in debt and hardly growing, most people have wondered how it benefits Turkey to join the European Union, and Turks have started asking themselves the same question; but the answer probably has more to do with politics and prestige than economics.

It seems to me thought that modern Turkey is almost all in Istanbul; this is not lost on the decision makers either, and there appears to be real efforts to extend development and education to all parts of the country. 

Maybe when one day I return to Turkey, they will be a highway from Ephesus to Istanbul and a high speed train from Istanbul to Ankara…which is the capital of Turkey!
Oh!, but that high speed train is already underway and expected to be finished in 2014.
Bye now, time for a boat cruise on the Bosphorus and a dinner with the Usman's later!

Ottoman is the western European mispronunciation of Usman that stuck with the empire.


Edem is an entrepreneur with experience in investment management. A native from Ghana , he is a poet and a quant, and plays a mean game of chess.

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