News / Middle East

Iran's Wooing of Africa Yields Scant Results as Sanctions Bite

TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
Before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad started a visit to Niger last week, there was talk that the poor West African state might add Iran to its list of buyers for the uranium mined in its remote desert north.
       
Such a deal would have alarmed world powers seeking to have Iran curb its shadowy nuclear program. But the outcome of Ahmadinejad's trip was far less spectacular: an agreement on visas for diplomats and another on health cooperation.
       
Ahmadinejad's final African tour before he steps down this year illustrated how Iran's campaign to court the fast-growing continent has yielded remarkably little in the way of trade and votes at the United Nations against sanctions targeting its disputed nuclear activity over the past seven years.
       
"There is a general sense that Iran's influence in Africa is on the wane,'' said Manoah Esipisu, a Johannesburg-based Africa analyst. "Iran means trouble with Washington and its allies, and there is little appetite for that.''
       
With an economic growth rate forecast above five percent this year despite a global slowdown, Africa is now attracting investment from around the world, meaning the continent can afford to be choosier about its friends.
       
Burgeoning oil production from countries like Nigeria,
Ghana, Chad and Equatorial Guinea also means Tehran's chief economic bargaining chip is of less value.
       
South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa's largest economy, had relied on Iran for a quarter of its oil imports but gave in to Western moves last year to embargo Iranian oil exports, turning elsewhere to secure its crude.
       
Kenya, an important Western ally in the fight against
militant Islam in East Africa, also backtracked within days on a deal to import 4 million tonnes of Iranian oil last year after its allies expressed disapproval.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said he had told Tehran frankly that his country could no longer purchase Iranian oil to avoid running into Western sanctions.
       
"I told them the United States is an important export market ...We don't want a situation that will damage our economy,'' said Ebrahim, who returned from Tehran last week.

"While we may appreciate and sympathise with them, there are certain realities that we need to take into consideration.''
      
Many developing states in principle back Iran's insistence on the right to enrich uranium for what it says will be civilian nuclear energy only. But they also feel Iran should heed U.N. demands for transparency in its nuclear work to help defuse fears that it is trying to develop the means to make atom bombs.
       
Trade down, no notes at the United Nations 
    
Last week's visit to Benin, Niger and Ghana was
Ahmadinejad's fifth to the continent since he took office in 2005. Before the trip, he described relations with Africa as "of paramount importance to Tehran."
       
But Tehran's lobbying for votes at the U.N. Security Council has fallen on deaf ears. African nations have voted in favour of all four sanctions resolutions passed between 2006 and 2010 as a result of Iran's nuclear program.

IMF data also suggests that Iran's trade with Africa - a
 fraction of other emerging powers' - has been hurt by sanctions. Its exports to sub-Saharan Africa peaked at $3.9 billion in 2011 only to slump last year to $1.8 billion.

Senegal exemplifies Iran's checkered record. A deal signed under the previous government of President Abdoulaye Wade led to a factory churning out yellow, Iranian-designed vehicles. But promises of a Iranian-built refinery to help ease
Senegal's chronic fuel shortage never materialized.

Then the seizure of a secret Iranian arms shipment in
Nigeria in 2010 en route for Gambia prompted Dakar to break off relations with Tehran as it feared the arms would have found their way across the border into the hands of separatist rebels.

The link between Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which was ties in West Africa, causes particular concern.
       
"It's important these countries are aware of the connections Iran has,'' said one Western diplomat, noting Tehran was using its chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement to court African nations. "You can track a lot of things going on back to Iran ... which means we need to be alert to what is going on.''

Iranian warships visited Sudan last year after Khartoum
accused Israel of bombing a weapons factory there. Israel has not commented on that accusation but has accused Sudan of smuggling weapons to Iranian-allied Palestinian group Hamas.

In Niamey, the Nigerien capital, Ahmadinejad called on
 Muslim states to resist Western efforts to divide them.

"The enemy doesn't want to see nations, especially Muslim ones, have good ties. They are always plotting ... but there is no doubt that the will of the people will triumph,'' he said.
       
But, with France a significant donor and security ally for
Niger, Nigerien Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum was quick to stress that any exchange with Iran would have to meet international laws.
      
Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress and an adviser to several African leaders, said he was previously alarmed that Iranian activities on the continent were not being taken seriously enough but now feels the tide has turned.
       
"Iran and Ahmadinejad have become more pariah-like than they were a few years ago and African leaders understand where their long-term bread is buttered,'' he said.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid