Qatar seeks new markets amid Gulf crisis, tours West Africa
The Emir of Qatar started his six-nation tour of West Africa with Senegal on Wednesday as Doha seeks out new markets following the economic boycott imposed by its Gulf allies.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani's is expected to visit Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Senegal, according to foreign ministry spokeswoman Lulwa al-Khater.
The visit is part of Doha's drive to open up new markets and diversify its economy amid an ongoing blockade by its neighbours, Khater said.
The emir landed in Senegal on Wednesday evening, while the Guinean presidency said in a statement he would arrive in Conakry on Thursday.
Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, lives in exile in Doha as part of a deal brokered with the emir to free the former minister from a prison sentence handed down for corruption.
A source close to the Malian presidency told AFP that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was also expecting Al-Thani on Thursday.
Khater said the six countries on the emir's itinerary had "strong economic potential and opportunities despite some security challenges in some of them".
The emir is to sign cooperation agreements in health, education, mining, energy and food security.
Khater said Qatar will also be providing $13.8 million to fund a cancer hospital in Burkina Faso.
Qatar has sought to establish new global trade links in an attempt to alleviate its regional isolation by powerful Saudi Arabia with which it shares its only land border.
Since 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have diplomatically isolated Qatar, accusing the emirate of supporting Islamist extremists and of being too close to Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival.
The four countries also cut off all air and sea links to Qatar.
Doha denies the allegations and instead accused the Saudi-led bloc of aiming to incite regime change in Doha.Qataris told The New Arab that the Saudi-led blockade has made the country stronger and more united as ever.