Belarus – Africa: multifaceted foreign economic policy

№ 1, 2021

Cooperation with African countries is a priority for the Republic of Belarus in the international arena.

Belarus-Africa cooperation is based on the establishment of stable trade and economic contacts. Such interaction seems prospective since the economies of Belarus and African states are cha­racterized by complementarity. For example, the development of the ­mining industry in several African countries provides a sales market for the pro­ducts of Belarusian heavy engi­neering. High on the list of the Belarusian goods promoted to the markets of the region are cars, tractors, agricultural machine­ry, petrochemical products – tires and fibers, fertilizers. Growing exports of Belarusian goods is an economic priori­ty for Belarus in Africa.

At the same time, the African continent is interesting for our country not only as a sales market but also as an additional source of the necessary ­resources and goods. Thus, Belarus can import many types of agricultural products of tropical origin, meat and seafood, rare mine­rals from African states, as well as gain experience in the development of mine­ral deposits for the domestic industry needs. Large-scale infrastructure programs and projects carried out by many African countries can become potential objects for the application of know­ledge, technologies, and experience of Belarusian companies, ­including in the service sector.

For the development of the entire complex of relations with African states, economic diplomacy is becoming increasingly important. Today, Belarus has its diplomatic missions in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. At the same time, Belarusian Ambassadors to the mentioned countries are accredited as non-residents to other states of the region. In turn, the diplomatic missions of African countries in the Russian ­Federation have representations in Minsk. Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary are accredited to Belarus and are actively working to promote the interests of their countries, and therefore provide assistance for the establishment of contacts with Belarusian enterprises.

One of the diplomatic missions' activity areas is the provision of consulting support. African countries have their speci­fics, and for the development of mutually beneficial cooperation with the region's business, Belarusian enterprises need to take into account some nuances. For example, traditional schemes for the sale of manufactured goods in Africa are ineffective: flexible approaches are needed in terms of pricing policy, payment forms and schemes. An important factor in promoting Belarusian goods on the African market is the opening of commercial representative offices, investing in the creation of dealer and service networks, advertising.

Two events organized by the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and ­Industry in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus were devoted to the presentation of these and other aspects that are needed to be known by the Belarusian companies planning to discover the African market or deepen interaction with region's businesses.

On October 29, 2020, a seminar was held for Belarusian enterprises and organizations entitled "Belarus – Africa: multifaceted economic policy of the Republic of Belarus in the international arena".

The event was attended by the Chairman of the BelCCI Vladimir ­Ulakhovich, the Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Koltovich, the Head of Africa and the Middle East Department of the Ministry of ­Foreign Affairs of Belarus Dmitry Koltsov, heads of the diplomatic missions of Belarus in Egypt (in ­Sudan concurrently), in South ­Africa (in ­Angola, ­Zimbabwe, ­Mozambique and ­Namibia concurrently), Kenya (Ethiopia, ­Uganda and ­Tanzania concurrently), Nigeria (Ghana, Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire concurrently), representatives of the ­Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus, ­Eximgarant of Belarus, Belarusian companies with successful experience in cooperation with African countries. More than 200 representatives of Belarusian business joined the broadcast.

The BelCCI Chairman said that Africa is viewed as a promising and long-term partner of Belarus. "Africa is a trea­sure trove of natural resources, the most important source of manpower, and a huge untapped market. Naturally, we have some experience of cooperation with this continent, but export diversification and development of foreign economic ties is a strategic and, in many ways, determining goal," Vladimir Ulakhovich noted.

Dmitry Koltsov, the Head of Africa and the Middle East Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, stressed that Belarus pays great attention to the develop­ment of relations, above all, trade and economic ties, with African countries. "We should focus on increasing mutual trade with African states, diversifying exports, deepening economic and industrial cooperation. It is important for our companies to reach a new level of project cooperation, to build up strong production ties and technological chains. In addition to the traditional export range to the region, Belarusian enterprises should promote scientific, technological, and industrial know-how in the manufacturing industry and agriculture, energy and transport," Dmitry Koltsov noted.

Belarus' Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade Vladimir ­Koltovich urged participants of the online seminar to advance a project approach, i.e. to implement projects to set up joint ventures and enterprises in Africa, to promote industrial and food products.

The heads of the Belarusian foreign diplomatic missions presented the information on promising areas of trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and African countries, on the possibilities for Belarusian companies to enter the markets of the region, and on the specifics of interaction with ­African partners.

Besides, instruments of financial support, and export risk insurance for trade transactions with African countries, successful projects implemented by Belarusian companies jointly with partners in Africa were presented.

The second event aimed at presenting the potential of African countries for Belarusian companies – a video­conference "Africa – Belarus: current situation and new beacons for joint business projects" – took place on ­December 9. It was attended by the heads of the diplomatic missions of African countries in the Russian Federation accredited to ­Belarus: the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Burkina Faso ­Antoine Somdah, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Egypt Ihab Nasr, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Namibia ­Clemens Handuukeme ­Kashuupolwa, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of South Sudan Chol Tong Mayay Jang, as well as Charge d'affaires a.i. of ­Nigeria to ­Belarus Mercy Haruna, Charge d'affaires a.i. of Sudan to Belarus Amal Mohammed Algasim, representatives of the MFA of Belarus, diplomatic missions of ­Algeria, ­Djibouti, Gabon, ­Ghana, ­Kenya, ­Mauritius, ­Morocco, Sierra ­Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, ­Zambia, Zimbabwe.

The heads and representatives of the African states' diplomatic missions presented the trade, economic and investment potential of their countries, opportunities for Belarusian businesses in these markets and promising projects in the fields of agriculture, mechanical engineering, mining, infrastructure development, transport and logistics, energy engineering, including the use of alternative energy sources, tourism, and other sectors. Besides, the diplomats reported on the advantages of doing business within the preferential zones in the African states, as well as on the large international events in the region that Belarusian businessmen can attend in 2021.

More than 200 Belarusian companies registered to take part in the confe­rence. They asked questions, put forward proposals – over 200 in total. The BelCCI forwarded the questions to the representatives of appropriate countries to analyze and develop cooperation projects.

The interest in the events on the part of Belarusian businesses, as well as the active participation of representatives of diplomatic missions, shows that the potential and prospects of cooperation with the countries of ­Africa are immense. Belarus is optimistic about its multifaceted relations with the countries of the region, and the expansion of collaboration coincides with the ­interests of the African partners.