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Iran and New Africa: Prospects of Economy and Security-based Partnership

Sunday 28 April 2024
Iran and New Africa: Prospects of Economy and Security-based Partnership

Alwaght- In the world's political literature, Africa is described the land of opportunities due to the high economic potentials and abundance of human and natural resources. This has been driving the Eastern and Western powers from decades ago to stage a tight competition in this continent for expanding their interests. Nowadays, emerging regional powers are coming onboard, seeking to get their share from economic markets of this continent.

As a regional power with capital, trade, science, and energy potentials, the Islamic Republic of Iran in recent years has been prioritizing in its foreign policy development of all-out relations with Africa. An embodiment of this Iranian approach led by administration of President Seyyed Ibrahim Raisi is the initiative of Iran-Africa international summit whose second round was held on Friday with the presence of senior officials of African countries, including finance ministers of over 30 African nations.

In this meeting, President Raisi described the development process of cooperation between Iran and African countries as positive and highlighted the need to quickly remove problems and obstacles in this way and to strengthen the shipping lines and to solve financial and monetary transfer problems. He added that the cooperation capacity is way beyond the current limits and talked about plans to tenfold the trade volume in the first step and reaching a trade value of $10 billion a year.

Referring to the Iranian technological capabilities, the president stressed the difference between the win-win view of Iran and the colonial view of the West to Africa.

"Cooperation with Africa was emphasized by Imam Khomeini and the Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Sayyed Ali Khamenei]. The Westerners want Africa for themselves, but we want Africa for Africa. This discrepancy of view is very important. History of Africa has shown how many Western countries have plundered African resources," he said.

Iran-Africa trade data

Iran's current trade with African countries is said to be $1 billion. Meanwhile, the highest amount of foreign trade between Iran and Africa happened in 2022, when this figure reached about $1.3 billion.

Seyyed Ruhollah Latifi, the spokesperson of the Trade Development Commission of the Chamber of Industry, Mining and Trade of Iran, named the top seven destinations of Iran export to Africa: Here are they: Ghana with $173.5 million, South Africa with $145 million, Tanzania with $92.8 million, Kenya with $48.7 million, Nigeria with 48 million dollars, Mozambique with $47.1 million and Somalia with $33.3 million were the first seven destinations of direct export of Iranian goods to this continent.

According to Latifi, 51 percent of Iran's exports to this continent were oil derivatives, including urea fertilizer, bitumen, LPG, and various industrial oils. 37 percent of exports included steel and iron products. Food, construction materials, types of carpets and flooring, detergents and sanitary products, household appliances, medicine and medical equipment, industrial supplies, auto parts, rubber, minerals, electrical appliances, chandeliers, furniture and toys were among other Iranian products exported to Africa in 2022.

Commenting on imports from Africa, Latifi maintained that last year 22 countries directly sold goods to Iran, topped by South Africa with $19 million, Zambia with $12.5 million, Ghana with $12 million, Seychelles with $ 11.7 million, Kenya with $9.5 million, Tanzania with $6.1 million, and Uganda with $4.1 million.

66 percent of Iran's imports from this continent were food and agricultural products such as tea, corn, coffee, tobacco, legumes, sheep, and fishery products, and 21 percent were minerals such as manganese ore, zinc ore, chromite concentrate, and the remaining 13 percent were mainly industrial oil and grease, types of belt, machines, chemical and industrial materials, and spare parts.

Establishing permanent secretariat for transformation of relations with Africa

During the summit, Iran's Minister of Industry, Mining, and Trade, Abbas Aliabadi, stressed the need for establishing a permanent secretariat for Iran-Africa economic cooperation in his ministry and following up important issues to achieve win-win ties with Africa.

Aliabadi added that reforming the customs tariffs for win-win relations with Africa is one of the important duties the secretariat will undertake.

Mehdi Zeyghami, head of Trade Development Organization and Deputy Minister of Industry, Mining, Trade, for his turn, pointed to the need for regular flights, especially to Western and Southern Africa and said Iran will increase the number of Iranian economic advisors in Africa. 

"Currently, there are 3 business advisors in Africa. This number is planned to increase to 14 people," he said.

The ground for these action, which indicate the current Iranian administration's resolve to transform relations with Africa in the near future, was laid during President Raisi’s visits to African countries. In July 2023, Raisi visited Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, the first tour to an Iranian president to Africa in 11 years. The tour made considerable outcomes. Here are some of them:

1. Signing 21 cooperation documents with Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe 

2. Barter of such products as chemicals

3. Imports of meet from Kenya

4. Official start of extra-territorial farming in Uganda 

Africa's big economic capacities 

African economic landscape is transforming fast and meanwhile the continent's high human and natural potentials are considerable. 

Africa is a continent with 54 countries and an area of approximately 31 million square kilometers, equivalent to 24 percent of the earth's surface and three times the size of Europe. Also, this continent with a population of about 1.4 billion is home to more than 18 percent of the world's population. According to statistics, it is the world's youngest continent. Also, the population growth rate in this continent is higher than the rest of the world, something carrying the potential of presenting it as a great power globally in near future. 

One of the most important matters of Africa is the increase in urbanization, which has the fastest and largest rate in the world. According to the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook, six of the ten fastest-growing economies in 2023 were in Africa. The growing population (urban population) is an opportunity from two perspectives: on the supply side, it provides more labor and on the demand side, it creates a larger consumer market. With rising labor costs in China, Africa has an opportunity to play a greater role as the "world's factory." 

When it comes to natural resources , Africa has 30 percent of natural reserves, 40 percent of gold and 90 percent of chromium and platinum in the world, and the largest reserves of cobalt, diamond, and uranium in the world are in Africa. In addition, Africa has 10 percent of fresh water renewable resources, 8 percent of natural gas resources, and 12 percent of the world's oil reserves. The three countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, in addition to agricultural power, have abundant resources of oil, coal, gold, cotton, nickel, platinum and diamond. 

African developments favorable to Iran 

The map of African political and geopolitical developments, especially in the non-Arab-language countries in recent years has seen major changes. These developments are led by national armies rising against West's advisory and military presence and its puppet governments. 

For example, since a military government took over the power in Niger in July last year, French and other European forces were expelled. Burkina Faso and Mali are other countries that have undergone similar developments. Expulsion of European military personnel has caused a security and military vacuum, and given Iran's willingness to expand its influence and Africa's positive look to non-colonial role of Iran as a fresh and powerful actor on the world stage and as a member of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization with established military capabilities internationally, counterterrorism cooperation with Africa is likely. 

During Gaza war, Iran made its military presence tangible in Sahel and Horn of Africa and before this it launched counter-piracy missions in international waters near Africa.

There are also various reports about a tendency of African countries to boost military cooperation with Iran. In February, Western media published unconfirmed reports about Sudan government's show of willingness to buy arms from Iran, especially drones to strike the Western and UAE-backed rebel Rapid Support Forces. Reports also talk about Algeria's interest in Iranian weapons.

Meanwhile, the growth of African interest to cooperate with Iran has stirred Western concerns. Reports suggest that last month, an American delegation visited Niger with the main agenda of countering the Russian and Iranian influence in this country. American officials accuse new Nigerien government of mulling a secret deal that will give Iran access to the country's uranium reserves. Shortly after this visit, Nigerien government rejected these claims and ended its counterterror military alliance with Washington.

Iran is pursuing common interests with African nations at all fields especially farming, mining, and infrastructure and also seeking new markets for its products and services. Certainly, if the pursuit of cooperation boost goes ahead this fast and serious, the new Africa will be more than ever receptive of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

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Iran Africa Cooperation Trade Security Exports West

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Details of the funeral ceremony of the president and his companions

Details of the funeral ceremony of the president and his companions