Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi received a red-carpet welcome from Kenyan counterpart William Ruto on Wednesday as he began a three-country tour of Africa that Tehran has touted as a “new beginning” in relations with the continent.
Raisi’s trip to Africa, which will also take him to Uganda and Zimbabwe, is the first by an Iranian president in more than a decade and represents a bid to diversify economic ties in the face of crippling US sanctions.
Kenya’s President Ruto said Wednesday he held bilateral talks with President Ebrahim Raisi where “Iran agreed to boost Kenya’s pursuits in manufacturing, health and the blue economy through research and technology.”
Kenya is keen on boosting its trade volumes with Iran and that Ruto said his administration was “working closely with Tehran to facilitate the export of more tea, meat and other agricultural products to Iran, which will also act as a key entry point to Central Asian countries.”
Raisi was welcomed by an honor guard at Kenya’s presidential palace before joining Ruto for a meeting, video posted on social media by Kenya’s presidency showed.
Raisi is expected to next fly to Uganda to discuss trade and bilateral relations with President Yoweri Museveni, and then to Zimbabwe.
The last Iranian leader to visit Africa was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013.
Shoring up allies support
Iran stepped up its diplomatic outreach to developing world countries after then-US President Donald Trump ditched a nuclear pact in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.
In June, Raisi visited three Latin American countries to shore up support with allies also saddled with US sanctions.
Iran’s trade with African countries will increase to more than $2 billion this year, its foreign ministry said on Saturday, without providing a comparative figure for 2022.
His trip to Kenya, East Africa’s economic powerhouse, will provide the two countries an “opportunity to review and re-energize their bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries,” Kenya’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.