By Bahattin Gonultas
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday called for greater Turkish investment in Sudan as businesspeople from the two sides signed deals in the capital.
Nine agreements ranging from cotton production to airport construction were signed in Khartoum during the Sudan-Turkey Business Forum.
They follow the signing of 13 agreements by the two countries on Dec. 24 regarding defense cooperation, mining, agriculture, increasing forest reserves and forest preservation, science, education, tourism, the environment, support for small businesses and the establishment of a strategic council to strengthen economic ties.
No financial information was provided on the deals.
The signing of the latest deals came on the final day of a two-day official visit by Erdogan to the country.
Speaking at the business forum after witnessing the signing of the deals, Erdogan said Sudan has agreed to hand over Suakin Island temporarily to Turkey for rebuilding.
Suakin, one of the oldest seaports in Africa, was used by African Muslims who set out for pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Ottomans used the port city to secure Hejaz province -- present-day western Saudi Arabia -- from attackers using the Red Sea front.
Erdogan said Turkey has invested around $650 million in Sudan, including $300 million worth of direct investments.
“Foreign direct investment from Turkey to Sudan should increase to over $1 billion in the short term,” he added.
“Around a $500 million trade volume [in 2016] between the two countries is not enough. In the coming years, it will be $1 billion, but we are targeting $10 billion.”
Erdogan said his country was aware of the economic potential of Africa and Sudan, and is encouraging Turkish businesspeople to invest in the country.
He also asked Turkish investors attending the forum to increase their investments in Sudan.
“There is a president [Omar al-Bashir] and people who sincerely invite you and open your way to invest in Sudan,” he said.
The defense industry will be among the Turkish investments in the country, Erdogan added.
Erdogan will leave Sudan early Tuesday for a one-day visit to Chad and will then head to Tunisia.
Turkey's exports to Sudan totaled $328.5 million in the January-October period this year while imports from the country stood at $78.3 million.
Erdogan is being accompanied by a large delegation including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz, Agriculture Minister Ahmet Esref Fakibaba, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus, Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and a delegation of around 200 Turkish businesspeople.