Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday he was ready to help combat terrorism in Nigeria, where Boko Haram fighters have killed thousands of people in a bloody campaign for a hardline Islamic state.
He also signed a memorandum on trade and economic cooperation, which Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said was “just the beginning of what we have in the pipeline.”
Speaking after talks with Buhari in Abuja, Erdogan commiserated with Nigerians fighting insurgents, saying he felt their pain.
“As a country combating terrorism for a long time now, every reprehensible terrorist attack that takes place here in Nigeria deeply hurts our heart,” Erdogan said to reporters at the presidential villa.
“We are always ready to cooperate with Nigeria when it comes to combating terrorism.”
Security was a recurring theme in the Turkish leader’s stops in Ivory Coast and Ghana ahead of his stay in Nigeria during a tour designed to strengthen economic ties with members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On Tuesday, Erdogan told Ghana’s parliament that Turkey can “contribute tremendously to the establishment of global peace and security.”
He will cap off his visit to the region with a stop in Guinea. Traditionally focussed on North Africa, Turkey in the past decade has paid increasing attention to the fast-growing economies of sub-Saharan Africa.
“Erdogan wants to build a case that Turkey is not just a regional power, but aspires to be a global one,” David Shinn, Africa professorial lecturer at The George Washington University, told AFP. “The primary connection with Africa is commercial, especially investment,” Shinn said.
“Turkey can rarely compete head-to-head with China in Africa but can fill niche markets such as small construction projects, smaller manufacturing companies and even some services.”
The country has more than tripled its embassies in Africa since 2009 while flag carrier Turkish Airlines has dozens of destinations on the continent.
“Turkey is not currently a major trading partner for either Nigeria or Ghana, nor is Turkey one of the main foreign investors,” Cobus de Hart, economist at NKC African Economics in South Africa, told AFP.
“That said, any bilateral agreements that would facilitate increased investment in West Africa would certainly be welcome,” he said.
“Nigeria especially would do well to utilise opportunities such as these, with the aim of diversifying the economy away from its dependence on oil.”
Nigeria, Africa’s number one oil producer, has been hit hard by the slump in oil prices, which has squeezed government revenue and severely weakened the naira currency.
Boko Haram still remains a threat in the country’s northeast, where the group has reverted to attacking “soft” civilian targets such as markets, bus stations, and mosques using suicide bombers.
The insurgency has left at least 17,000 people dead since it began in 2009 but over the last year Nigerian forces have recaptured territory lost to the rebels. 29