Andrea Vogel

Turkey's GDP is a whopping annual 5% -- with no let up in sight. No wonder more than 300 CEOs, leading entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and government leaders can't wait to discuss how to capitalize on the country's exploding growth opportunities.

From 8-9 May, Istanbul will play host to EY's first ever Growing Beyond: Strategic Growth Forum in Turkey. Innovation, transactions, growth and what's shaping new opportunities in Turkey and beyond are just some of what's on the table for discussion.

Andrea Vogel, EY's Growth Markets Leader for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, previews the opportunities and key challenges are when it comes to investing in Turkey.

Q: What makes Istanbul the perfect location for the next SGF?

A: Istanbul really is at the heart of an exciting rapid growth region with a little bit for everyone. It has opportunities for entrepreneurs, innovators and large corporates alike. From a trading point of view, Turkey is in the enviably prime geographic location between the East and West, the gateway to both worlds.

Q: Do you think Turkey's export growth will be short-lived?

A: During the first eight months of 2012, Turkey made US$100b from exports, 13% higher than the corresponding period in the previous year. In 2012 nearly half of the country's exports went to the EU, while the rest went to the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. It is those trade links that will prove invaluable if the country is to stake its future growth on exports.

Infographic: Turkey by numbers

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Q: Who else do you see benefiting from investing in Turkey, besides its well-known textiles and clothing sectors?

A: Travel and tourism is proving particularly successful. More than 31.5 million people visited Turkey in 2011, which, according to the Turkish tourist board, accounted for US$23b of revenue. Bear in mind the country's skilled workforce is the fourth largest in the EU, which offers a competitive advantage in a number of sectors, including the textile industry.

I see many opportunities in the energy and utilities sector as well as privatization kicks off across the country. The nation's focus on alternative energy is just one interesting area to keep an eye on. By 2023, Turkey's leaders want 20% of the country's power to come from renewable energy.

Q: Who are you looking forward to hearing speak at the SGF?

A: I'm really excited about the guest speakers at this event! I can't wait to hear from Ali Babacan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, who will open the Forum and host a Q&A session. Some of the best entrepreneurs will also share their stories, notably Tarkan Maner of Dell - Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 Northern California Award winner, and Ali Sabanci from Pegasus Airlines. Plus, we have some world-class entertainment from Turkey's most renowned harpist and musical historian, ┼×irin Pancaro─člu, who will play at the Gala dinner. So exciting.