Posted: 01.02.2023 10:52:00

Important partners in the Middle East and Africa

The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, paid visits to the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe

Both states are important trade partners of Belarus in the Middle East and Africa. Moreover, in co-operation with the Emirates, Belarus seeks to use not only the opportunities of this capacious market for the export of goods and services, but also the transport and logistics advantages for the supply of its products from the UAE to neighbouring states of the Middle East. As for Zimbabwe, this country can become a gateway for us to new markets in South Africa.

By the way, Aleksandr Lukashenko raised the topic of co-operation with the Emirates quite recently during his visit to the Intellectual Belarus exhibition. The Head of State was particularly interested in developments in the field of artificial intelligence. He had discussed this topic earlier during his meetings with foreign partners, including partners from the United Arab Emirates, a country where artificial intelligence is one of key areas of focus. Furthermore, Aleksandr Lukashenko has always stressed his readiness to assist in the development of co-operation between the Emirati side and Belarusian partners.
In general, trade and economic co-operation between Belarus and the UAE has been steadily developing. Joint interests and prospects of co-operation lie in such areas as investment, industry, agriculture, banking and finance, transport and logistics, education and scientific research, sports and tourism.
The complementarity of the economies of Belarus and the UAE is a favourable factor for the development of trade and economic co-operation. Belarus not only seeks to use the capacity of the UAE market to export goods and services but also uses the transport and logistics advantages for the supply of its products from the UAE to the Middle East and Africa. Belarus counts on reciprocal initiatives of the Emirati business as well.
And if there is nothing surprising in the trips of the Belarusian leader to the Middle East (the UAE is an important trading partner and a significant investor for us, just recall the construction of the Northern Waterfront, the largest modern project in Minsk worth about $5 billion), then for most Belarusians even the name of the country Zimbabwe itself sounds quite exotic.

During the Belarus-Zimbabwe business forum

The President of Belarus paid a state visit to Zimbabwe — in the language of diplomacy, this is considered the highest protocol status of a visit. The meeting ceremony at the airport of the capital city of Harare perfectly fits it — a guard of honour, anthems, volleys from salute installations. Residents of the Zimbabwean capital greeted the distinguished guest with authentic songs and dances to the beat of drums, chants and applause. 
Aleksandr Lukashenko was met personally by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the gangway of the plane. After a brief conversation, the leaders of the two countries left the airport in the same car. The programme of the stay included talks of the Heads of State in a one-on-one and in an expanded format. On the basis of the Zimbabwe institute of agriculture, with the participation of the Presidents, a ceremony was held to transfer equipment from Belarusian manufacturers as part of the completion of the second phase of the Zimbabwe farm mechanisation programme and the start of the third phase of the programme. 
The Belarus-Zimbabwe business forum was opened in Harare on the eve of the arrival of the Belarusian leader. It was attended by dozens of heads of ministries, departments and enterprises of the two countries. Belarus brought its national delicacies to the business forum — a variety of meat and dairy products, and even Belarusian ice cream. The First Vice President Constantino Chiwenga also tasted the sweet delicacy. By the way, it has been made with the use of orange juice made from the fruits grown in Zimbabwe, which is quite symbolic in itself.
The First Vice President noted the existing warm relations between the countries and the gradual strengthening of co-operation, which was facilitated by previous visits at various levels, “The forum is an ideal platform to exchange views, knowledge and information on economic development. There are plenty of opportunities in Zimbabwe to invest in a wide variety of industries. These are agriculture, mining, tourism, energy, transport, education and many others.”
President of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Mike Kamungeremu stressed that his country has greatly benefited from bilateral relations with Belarus in various sectors, “In terms of economies, Belarus and Zimbabwe are not competitors. We can develop mutually beneficial trade and investment. There are a lot of opportunities in Zimbabwe. Believe me, you will not regret that you decided to do business with Zimbabwe and in Zimbabwe.”
Until 1980, this African state was a British colony and was called Southern Rhodesia. After the declaration of independence, it acquired its current name. In terms of area, Zimbabwe is almost twice the size of Belarus. The country has a unique flora and fauna, and on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia there is one of the natural pearls not only of Africa, but also of the world — the Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) waterfall, also known as Victoria Falls. 

Abu Dhabi — the capital of the UAE

In addition, the Zimbabwean land is rich in platinum, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore and other minerals. Rich natural resources are a good start for industrial production. A significant role in the country’s economy is also assigned to the agricultural sector, the modernisation of which began several years ago. In this regard, Zimbabwe has a huge interest in our country, thus, several factors came together here. The President of Zimbabwe initiated a Vision 2030 large-scale plan for the country’s economic development, which involves concrete steps to industrialise, mechanise the national economy of Zimbabwe, improve the quality of education, medical services, and improve the living standards of the population. Belarus has a high level of skill sets and its own developments in all these areas. In addition, Belarus is perceived as a friendly, even fraternal country, which does not follow the trail of the colonial past.
Belarusian participation in joint projects in agriculture, light and food industries, construction, fertiliser production, energy, exploration, mining, transport, education and medicine is seen as promising. Zimbabwe is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area which has a market of over a billion people. It is no coincidence that during the visit the creation of a hub in Africa for the trade in Belarusian products was also discussed.
Business communication between the business circles of the two countries resulted in the signing of a number of co-operation agreements. Thus, from the Belarusian side, the documents were signed by the Minsk Tractor Works, Lidselmash, the Minsk Motor Plant, Gomselmash, and Bobruiskagromash. The main exporter of Belarusian products to the Zimbabwean market, the Minsk Tractor Works, supplied more than 1,800 units of equipment to this country from 2018 to 2022.
“In the next two years, we plan to double this number [MTZ will supply 3,575 tractors to Zimbabwe in 2023-2024]. 
Naturally, we and our partners are engaged not only in sales, but also in service. Three service centres have already been opened. Three more will open soon. We expect to be firmly established here,” MTZ Director General Vitaly Vovk shared the details of the future strategy.
The head of the Africa and Middle East Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Yuri Nikolaichik said that our country has been gradually increasing its presence in Africa, “We started with two foreign missions. Those were embassies in Egypt and the Republic of South Africa. Today Belarus has five embassies on the African continent. These strongholds generally cover the key regions of Africa. In West Africa, we rely on Nigeria, which is the economic leader in the region. In East Africa, our foothold is Kenya. If we take the region between South Africa and East Africa, then it is Zimbabwe that is our reference point in this belt.”

In 2021, the trade turnover between Belarus and Zimbabwe amounted to $25 million, with Belarusian exports of $16.5 million. In January-November 2022, mutual trade in goods increased to $38.6 million. Belarusian exports have reached almost $30 million.

We will tell more about the results of the state visit of the President of Belarus to Zimbabwe in the next issue of the newspaper. 

Based on materials of and
Photos by BELTA