President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed Monday to boost relations with African countries as he visited the Senegalese capital Dakar as part of his four-day diplomacy tour of Central and West Africa.
"We will continue to enhance our relations with African countries on the basis of sincerity and solidarity," Erdoğan said during a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, as the two leaders signed five agreements, including one on security.
Erdoğan noted that with the communique, action plan and joint implementation report adopted during the 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit in Istanbul, a road map had been set out in Turkish relations with Africa for the 2022-2026 period.
"We discussed all aspects of Turkey-Senegal relations at our talks," he said. "We exchanged ideas on how we can further advance our relations in every area. We once again gladly observed that we share the same determination to deepen our cooperation."
The president also said he will be attending the opening ceremony Wednesday of Dakar Olympic Stadium, which was built by Turkish entrepreneurs. He will also open the new Turkish Embassy building in the capital.
"I am very proud that the new stadium, which will add new ones to Senegal's sports successes, was constructed by a Turkish firm. I wholeheartedly congratulate the great success the Senegalese National Team achieved in the Africa Cup of Nations by winning the championship," he added.
Noting that the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Senegal had reached $540 million (TL 7.43 billion) in 2021, Erdoğan said "our goal is to elevate this figure to some $1 billion in a short span of time."
"We attach great importance to structuring our investments in a way to prioritize human resources while advancing our relations," he said.
"For instance, 1,000 of the total 1,500 workers employed in the Dakar Olympic Stadium project were our Senegalese brothers and sisters.
"The contributions of our companies within the Emerging Senegal Plan will continue with the support of the Senegalese people," Erdogan added.
"Also, our firms in Senegal carry out activities in the areas of energy, steel production, health care, the food industry, ready-mixed concrete production and gold processing on the basis of mutual interest."
Erdoğan also mentioned the "close cooperation in the area of development."
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), which "has since 2007 completed 186 projects in Senegal with a total value of $12 million, is determined to maintain its activities," he said.
"The Turkish Maarif Foundation, for its part, provides education for 287 students at 13 schools in Senegal," he said, adding: "The number of Senegalese students granted Türkiye Scholarships since 1992, on the other hand, has reached 187."
Erdoğan also thanked Senegalese officials "for the support they provide to our fight against the FETÖ terrorist organization. We have no doubt that this support and solidarity will continue."
The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, in Turkey that killed 251 people and injured 2,734.
FETÖ was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
For his part, Sall praised Turkish companies that have initiated various investment projects in the country and said investments between the two countries should increase even more.
Sall said he invited Erdoğan to the opening of the stadium on Feb. 22 and the invitation turned into an official visit.
He also thanked Erdoğan for his support and interest in Senegalese players playing in Turkey
Erdoğan departed Sunday for a four-day tour to three African countries upon the invitation of his counterparts. The first stop was the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Erdoğan's visit to Guinea-Bissau will mark the first presidential-level official visit from Turkey to the West African country.
Senegal, which gained independence from France in 1960, stands out in West Africa owing to its stability and institutionalized democracy.
Its capital, Dakar, hosts regional offices of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, thanks to its excellent geographical location and security.
Muslims comprise 96% of its 16 million population. A vast majority are devout followers of Sufi orders such as the Muridiyya, Qadiriyya and Tijaniyyah. This has prevented extremist elements from influencing the country's Muslim population. Wolof, Fulani and Serer are the biggest ethnic groups in the country. The country's official language is French, although Wolof and Fulani, as well as many other Indigenous languages, are spoken.
Turkey is seeking to strengthen its presence in Africa. Since 2003, the volume of its trade with the continent has increased from $2 billion to at least $25 billion.
Erdoğan has visited Africa nearly 40 times since 2005, as prime minister and president. In that time, Turkey has opened some 40 embassies on the continent.
Turkey's influence also covers the realm of defense, with Ankara inaugurating its first African military base in 2017 in Somalia.