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Iranian President Raisi kicks off Africa tour in Kenya

July 12, 2023

The tour marks the first visit by an Iranian leader to Africa continent in over a decade and comes as Tehran seeks to strengthen its partnerships across the globe amid heavy US economic sanctions.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi meets with Kenya's President William Ruto at State House in Nairobi
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi was welcomed with a red carpet by Kenya's President William Ruto in NairobiImage: Khalil Senosi/AP/picture alliance

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was welcomed by his counterpart, William Ruto, in Kenya during the first stop of a three-country tour of Africa that kicked off on Wednesday. 

Raisi referred to Africa as a "continent of opportunities" during a press briefing, emphasizing its potential as a market for Iranian products. 

"None of us are satisfied with the current volume of trade and the current economic exchange between countries," he said.

Iran seeks to expand trade in Africa

Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it expects trade with African countries to increase to more than $2 billion (€1.8 billion) this year, without providing a comparative figure for 2022.

Iranian and Kenyan ministers signed five memorandums of understanding related to information technology, fisheries, livestock products and investment promotion, the two governments announced.

Kenyan President William Ruto described Iran as a "critical strategic partner" and a "global innovation powerhouse." He expressed his interest in expanding Kenya's agricultural exports beyond tea to Iran and Central Asia.

Ruto also announced Iran's plans to establish a manufacturing plant for Iranian vehicles in Kenya's port city of Mombasa.

Promoting diplomacy and trade

Iran's Foreign Ministry shared that President Raisi's tour aimed to promote economic diplomacy, strengthen political relations, and diversify export destinations. Last month, Raisi visited Latin America, signaling Iran's efforts to deepen ties with allies facing similar US sanctions.

His visit to Uganda and Zimbabwe was expected to prioritize discussions on trade and bilateral relations. Few details have been released about the Iranian leader's visit to the two countries.

Nuclear security expert: 'Iran made some steps that raised concern'

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a US ally on security matters, has previously voiced support for Iran's nuclear program, emphasizing the right of sovereign countries to pursue peaceful nuclear activities.

Uganda was also seeking to establish a nuclear power plant with technical support from the China National Nuclear Corporation.

In Zimbabwe, which is also under US sanctions, a ministerial delegation visited Tehran earlier this year to explore areas of cooperation, including petroleum trade.

los/ab (Reuters, AFP)