On Wednesday, Jul 12, 2023, President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, launched his first visit to Africa. Raisi was received by his Kenyan counterpart, William Ruto, and will continue on his visit to Uganda and Zimbabwe. This is Iran’s first presidential visit to Africa in more than a decade.
The reason behind this visit is the Iranian economic crisis resulting from the economic sanctions by the US. The sanctions were imposed after the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, when the US embassy was seized in Tehran. The escalation of these sanctions happened after 2018, when the Trump Administration questioned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)’s effectiveness to set limitations to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Iran has demonstrated an ambition to maximize its regional influence ever since the Iran Revolution. Being each other’s enemy since 1979, the US is unwilling to witness the expansion of Iran’s strategic influence and military power.
In 2015, the Obama Administration signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and several other countries, specifying conditions for sanctions. According to the Action, the US and other world powers lifted the sanctions during the Obama Administration, allowing the Iranian oil export to bounce back to the level before the sanctions.
In 2018, the Trump Administration decided that the US drop out from JCPOA, claiming that it failed to regulate Iran’s nuclear activity. Trump relaunched the sanctions, which led to an economic crisis in Iran that is mostly related to geopolitical factors.
Iran has sought out to build trade relations to more international partners to undermine the negative impacts of the US-imposed sanctions. In June 2023, Raisi visited 3 Latin American countries that share a defiance against the West, including Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. He addressed Washington as their “shared enemy” with Venezuela. Within the five-day trip, Raisi successfully signed more than 20 agreements with the countries, cooperating in energy, maritime transport, agriculture, medicine, information technology, insurance and culture.
In Kenya, Raisi was welcomed on the red carpet by President of Kenya, William Ruto. Raisi inspected the guard of honor, visited Iran’s “Innovation and Technology” house in Kenya, and paid respects at the tomb of the national leader of Kenya’s independence.
“Today, African countries and our friend Kenya have a great desire to use Iranian products in their markets. The Kenyan authorities have already created suitable grounds for increasing trade relations between the two countries, and with this trip, which will be a turning point in the development of bilateral relations, the market of Iranian goods and services in Kenya and other East African countries will expand day by day.” Raisi stated.
The presidential meeting addressed information, communication and technology; fisheries; animal health and livestock production and investment promotion. Iran also expressed its willingness to build a factory to manufacture Iranian vehicles in Mombasa, Kenya’s port city.
President of Kenya, Ruto, demonstrates a very positive attitude towards the economic ties proposed by Raisi.
“Iran agreed to boost Kenya’s pursuits in manufacturing, health and the blue economy through research and technology.” said Ruto.
Written by Tina Zhang