Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper boards his plane for a trip to Europe in Ottawa August 31, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/Blair Gable
Al-Qaida has already taken hold in parts of Senegal's neighbour, Mali, while other Islamists operate in Nigeria, so Harper plans discuss the latest developments with Senegal's president.
"The prime minister has, through various fora, including our own G-8, invited leaders from that part of the world to discuss the security situation," Harper's spokesman Andrew MacDougall said. "President (Macky) Sall, I anticipate, will be able to give us a good discussion on the impacts on the region in West Africa more broadly."
Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare says the situation in West Africa is already on the Canadian military's radar.
"Our job is to understand what is going on and be prepared to respond should government require us to respond with military resource to enable partners in the region, if that were to come to pass," Beare said. "The trend is towards more instability in that region."
Former Canadian diplomat in Mali, Jeff Gilmour, said the terror situation is especially concerning because of the potential creation of failed states that could turn into mini Afghanistans.
He said the Islamist groups operating there are an obvious threat to Europe.
"I think it's significant," Gilmour said. "There are also Boko Haram fighters coming in form Nigeria. It is said they've been spotted in Mali. Al-Qaida is getting reinforcements."
However, Gilmour said he doesn't see any NATO military intervention happening soon.
For now, he sees Canada continuing its training role in the region to help West African troops fight Islamist forces while also sharing intelligence with regional governments.
Harper's visit to Senegal will also focus on fighting hunger in the Sahel region of West Africa.
He begins Thursday by visiting a vocational school in Senegal's capital, Dakar.
He'll also receive a briefing from UN officials working on hunger and security issues in the region, before meeting with Senegal's president.