Turkey helps to combat terrorism in Africa: Envoy
Without specifying the contours of cooperation, Turkish envoy in Niger, Mustafa Türker Ari, said his country was financing the joint G5 Sahel counter-terrorism force.
A grouping of five countries, the G5 Sahel includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in the Niger capital of Niamey, Ari said his country was concerned about terrorist threats in the Sahel region, the semi-Arid strip that runs the width of Africa.
Niger is at the heart of international counter-terrorism strategies for the region.
The ambassador said that Turkey has already invested $39 million in Niger, in the first five months of 2019. Last year, Turkey had invested $49 million in vArious development projects in the country to boost the education, health, environment and infrastructure sectors.
Relations between the two counties date back to the 15th century, when traders were travelling to this region during the Ottoman Empire period.
While Turkey opened its mission in Niger in January 2012, it had established a relationship based on mutual cooperation in 1996. Niger also opened its embassy in Ankara in October 2012.
Ari said that Turkey's MaArif Foundation has funded more than 1,000 students in Niger through a school friendship program.
In the health sector, the ambassador informed, Turkey has built a 44-bed Niger-Turkish friendship hospital in the capital Niamey, with two operating theaters, equipped with an ambulance. He said 50 Nigerian patients are annually treated in Turkey.
Turkey is also supporting Niger in the field of environmental protection, including the fight against desertification. It has built a Niger-Turkish Friendship Park, an ecological green space on the eastern outskirts of Niamey.
Besides renovation and modernization of the Niamey International Airport and construction of Radisson Hotel, carried out by the Turkish company SUMMA, the envoy said that Turkey was involved in many infrastructure projects. He said that the seven weekly flights by the Turkish Airlines between Niamey and Istanbul was helping to boost business and people-to-people contacts.
"The main products exported from Turkey to Niger are food products, furniture and textile products. Turkey imports gold and iron products from Niger," said the ambassador.
Welcoming the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, the envoy predicted that it will allow economic relations between Africa and Turkey to enter into a new era. He said that since 2008, Turkey is a strategic partner of the African Union and is represented in the African Development Bank as a non-regional member.
"Turkey's trade volume with Africa has increased from $2.9 billion in 2002 to $18.8 billion in 2017. With Sub-Saharan Africa, this volume has increased from $806 million to $7.1 billion," he added. The number of Turkish embassies in Africa have also grown from 12 in 2002 to 41 in 2019.