The many visits of high-level Turkish officials to Africa in the last few years indicate the importance of the continent to Turkey's foreign relations. How would you assess bilateral ties between Turkey and Nigeria today?
We have a “win-win" approach to Turkish-Nigerian relations. This approach to Africa is essential. Only through such an approach will the economic potential of Africa benefit the continent first and the wider world later. Our relations with the African continent have gained momentum over the last decade. We see Nigeria—a rising power in its region—as a strategic partner in Africa and we aim to develop and diversify our relations in all areas. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey, paid an official visit to Nigeria on March 1-3, 2016; just over a year later, President Muhammadu Buhari visited Turkey, on October 19, 2017. These visits demonstrated our common will to deepen our bilateral relations and move forward. Both countries are regional powers in their respective geographies. This fact presents us the opportunity to deepen our cooperation in a wide spectrum of areas. Much improved economic relations through realizing infrastructure projects and increased trade are the main areas to look into. Fighting against terrorism is also an important pillar for our collaboration. Transboundary terrorist organizations threaten every country they reach. If we do not strengthen cooperation against these threats, they will eventually damage the places where they nest. The PKK/YPG/PYD, DAESH, and FETÖ are some of the terrorist organizations that Turkey fights against. FETÖ is a cult-like global organized crime network with economic and political ambitions. Its activities should be closely monitored and ceased. We support Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram and the so-called “Islamic State-West Africa Province" (ISWAP). ISWAP, a faction of Boko Haram, claims to be related to DAESH. We fight DAESH vigorously in our region. In late 2018, Turkish Ambassador Melih Ulueren stated Ankara's willingness to diversify its business ties with Nigeria; moreover, the Turkish Exporters Assembly aims to achieve USD1 billion in trade with Nigeria by 2020.
In which areas do you see the highest potential for more diversified trade?
The amount of bilateral trade between Turkey and Nigeria reached USD1.25 billion (USD350 million Turkish exports to Nigeria, USD900 million imports), including petroleum and LNG exports from Nigeria to Turkey. Excluding the petroleum and LNG trade, the bilateral trade volume is approximately USD490 million. Our bilateral trade is imbalanced and heavily based on petroleum, LNG, and civil aviation. This imbalance in bilateral trade can be levelled through better economic ties. Turkish construction materials, furniture, electrical equipment, and machinery enjoy international competitiveness, with good value for money. Exports of these goods from Turkey to Nigeria should be increased. Likewise, Turkish construction companies could gain a better share of infrastructure projects in Nigeria.
What are the most attractive investment opportunities in Turkey for Nigerian investors?
As an emerging market, Turkey provides opportunities to foreign investors. With an 80 million-strong population, we have a large domestic market. We are also in a Customs Union with the EU. Thanks to vocational education and experience in Turkey, our labor force is qualified and competitive. Our geographical location connects Europe, Asia, and Africa. Turkey has well-developed infrastructure and a business-friendly investment climate with low taxes and strong incentives. In parallel with their investments at home, sectors that Nigerian investors could easily invest in include agriculture, mining, energy, infrastructure, finance, and real estate.
How do you envision the future of bilateral relations between the two countries?
Turkey's policy of opening up to Africa and its strategic partnership with the African Union, which was declared a decade ago, was buttressed by its deep relations with several countries on the continent, including Nigeria. Turkey has been diplomatically present in Nigeria since 1960. Historically, the Ottoman Empire enjoyed relations with the people of Nigeria long before that. We believe that such deep-rooted bonds give us the opportunity to develop unwavering cooperation in a wide range of areas. We value our relationship with Nigeria very much and will spare no effort to make sure it reaches its potential.