Iran makes first Africa step in a decade
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Nairobi on Wednesday to a red-carpet welcome from his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto, as he began a three-nation tour of East Africa.
The visit is intended to foster “closer interaction with African countries,” to “diversify Iran’s export destinations,” and to “create more grounds for political and commercial cooperation,” according to the Iranian foreign ministry.
Raisi’s mission to Africa comes more than a decade after former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Benin, Niger, and Ghana in 2013.
The president will also visit Uganda and Zimbabwe, on a trip that Tehran has described as a “new beginning” in relations with the continent, which it referred to as a “land of opportunities” and “fortune.”
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, said Africa’s mineral resources and economic opportunities in various sectors, as well as those of the Islamic Republic, provide “important ground for both sides to develop interests and profit from the existing capacities.”
Kenya’s President Ruto announced that Tehran has agreed to boost his country’s research and technology efforts in manufacturing, health, and the blue economy.
The two countries also finalized key memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in the areas of agriculture, livestock, culture and heritage, information, information and communications, fisheries and housing, as well as urban development.
“Kenya is keen on enhancing its trade volumes with Iran,” Ruto said, adding that Nairobi will export agricultural products and its tea to Tehran, “which will also act as a key entry point to Central Asian countries.”
The Islamic Republic’s president is expected to visit South Africa in the “near future,” the country’s foreign ministry stated.
Raisi was in Latin America last month, following his visit to Indonesia the month before, all part of an effort to broaden its diplomatic outreach to developing countries, where dozens of agreements were signed. The leader criticised Washington’s actions, particularly the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and on its Latin American allies.
Iran has been subject to US sanctions since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump canceled a multilateral nuclear agreement and reimposed economic restrictions on Tehran.
Earlier this month, Iran gained full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, becoming the ninth member of the security bloc founded in 2001. The intergovernmental body, which includes China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, prioritizes cooperation in the areas of politics, security, trade, economy, finance and investment, as well as in cultural and humanitarian ties.