Turkey's Erdogan to embark on major trip to Africa

Ankara (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit four west African countries next week, including Nigeria, his office said Saturday in a new sign of Ankara's desire to be a major influence in the region.

Erdogan will began his visit in Ivory Coast on Sunday, before travelling on to Ghana and then to economic powerhouse Nigeria. He will wrap up the trip in Guinea on Thursday, it said.

The visit was aimed at deepening Turkey's "strategic partnership" with Africa and developing relations with members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the presidential statement said.

It will be the first time a Turkish president has visited Ivory Coast and Guinea, it added.

Erdogan, who in January last year visited Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, is spearheading a drive to expand Turkish presence in Africa.

Turkey has more than tripled the number of embassies it has in Africa since 2009 while 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 and Erdogan this year also visited Chile, Ecuador and Peru.