Iran signed a number of cooperation deals during President Ebrahim Raisi’s three-country African tour that concluded on July 13.
Raisi arrived in Zimbabwe for the third and final stop of his tour on July 13, after visiting Kenya and Uganda earlier. Here, Iranian and Zimbabwean senior officials signed 12 agreements in the presence of the presidents of the two countries.
“Cooperation in the fields of oil and energy, telecommunications and information technology, social security and insurance, work and employment, higher education, science, research and technology, agriculture and fisheries, food and medicine, supply, distribution and production of medical equipment, professional safety and reduction of work-related injuries, social support and child protection, empowerment of disabled people and cooperation agreement between Iran Tractor Company and Zimbabwe Magai Company were among documents signed between Iran and Zimbabwe,” Iranian president’s official website reported.
Raisi said: "Our emphasis is on speeding up the implementation of the memoranda and cooperation documents signed between the two countries so that their results in practice lead to securing the interests of the two nations."
The three-day trip can be a "new beginning" in Iran's relations with Africa. During his visit to Uganda on July 12, Raisi accused the West of extracting natural resources from developing countries, saying that Tehran seeks to establish economic partnerships with African nations in light of the US sanctions.
At a meeting of the business community of the two countries, Raisi said that "the current trade and economic relations between Iran and Uganda are not acceptable to either of the two countries, while it is easy to increase the trade between the two countries to 10 times the current volume".
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni asked his Iranian counterpart to help Uganda with technology to develop oil refinery and petrochemical production. He also sought cooperation in a number of sectors, including sending agricultural products to Iran.
Museveni’s call comes at a time when some European countries and international organizations are exerting pressure on Uganda and financial institutions to stop the construction of the oil refinery and the oil pipeline citing environmental challenges. The oil refinery is expected to cost between $4 billion and $5 billion to construct, therefore, Uganda is looking for foreign investors to fund the project.
In January, the West imposed more sanctions on Iran over Tehran's support for Russia in the war against Ukraine. Iran's long-strained relations with the West have deteriorated since talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal broke down.
Meanwhile, high-ranking officials of Iran and Uganda signed four cooperation documents during Raisi’s visit. These included visa waiver, agricultural cooperation, establishment of a joint permanent commission and a joint statement.
On the first leg of his tour, the Iranian president held talks with his Kenyan counterpart, William Ruto, on July 12.
"To increase the volume of trade exchanges by 10 times is completely possible, according to the existing capacities," Raisi said.
He proposed several possible fields of cooperation and trade between the two countries, including petrochemicals, agriculture, fisheries, science and technology, human rights and the fight against corruption and narcotics.
The two presidents attended a signing ceremony of five memoranda of understanding on cooperation in information and communication technology, fisheries, animal health, livestock production, and investment promotion.
This was the first trip to Africa by an Iranian president in more than a decade. The last Iranian president to travel to Africa was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who visited Benin, Niger and Ghana in April 2013.
Before leaving on his tour, Raisi told reporters that African nations have "good capacities" and are "keen on cooperation" with Tehran.