Turkey’s Erdoğan embarks on major trip to Africa

Turkey’s Erdoğan embarks on major trip to Africa

Turkey’s Erdoğan embarks on major trip to Africa

AA photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit four West African countries next week, in a new sign of Ankara’s desire to be a major influence in the region.

Erdoğan was scheduled to begin his visit in Ivory Coast on Feb. 28, before continuing to Ghana and then to economic powerhouse Nigeria. He will wrap up the trip in Guinea on March 3, his office said in a statement released over the weekend.

The visit is aimed at deepening Turkey’s “strategic partnership with Africa and developing relations with members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),” the statement said. It will be the first time a Turkish president has visited Ivory Coast and Guinea, it added.

Erdoğan, who in January last year visited Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, is spearheading a drive to expand Turkey’s presence in Africa.

Turkey has more than tripled the number of embassies it has in Africa since 2009, while national flag carrier Turkish Airlines has dozens of destinations on the continent.

Bilateral trade between Turkey and all of Africa was worth $23.4 billion in 2014, while bilateral trade with sub-Saharan countries has increased tenfold since 2000, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Turkey is also moving to increase its presence outside its traditional sphere of influence in the lands of the Ottoman Empire, as Erdoğan visited Chile, Ecuador and Peru this year.

During his latest tour of Africa, Erdoğan has been accompanied by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Economy Minister Mustafa Elitaş, Energy and Natural Sources Minister Berat Albayrak, Defense Ministerı İsmet Yılmaz and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Güldemet Sarı.

While announcing the tour at a press conference on Feb. 26, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Erdoğan was also planning to visit Somalia “within this year” as part of an East Africa tour.

“During this visit, we will have a chance to see the ongoing projects in education, healthcare, infrastructure, the airport and port projects on site. Moreover, as you know, we have built our biggest embassy in the world in Somalia. The construction is almost completed. During his visit, Mr. President will inaugurate this embassy,” Kalın said.

In January 2015, Erdoğan visited the Somali capital, under tight security to launch Turkish-sponsored development projects including an airport terminal. The visit took place only a few days after five people were killed in a suicide attack on a hotel housing the Turkish delegation in Mogadishu on Jan. 22.

Hundreds of soldiers and police officers had shut down much of the capital’s streets, where on Jan. 22 five people were killed in a suicide attack on a hotel housing the Turkish delegation in Mogadishu.

Somalia’s al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels - who are fighting to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government - said they carried out the bombing.