MINSK, (BelTA) – Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is set to pay visits to the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Zimbabwe in the coming days, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian leader.
“On the invitation of the leadership of the United Arab Emirates and the president of Zimbabwe the Belarusian head of state is expected to visit these countries in the near future. The Belarusian president is set to hold a number of meetings and talks,” the press service said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko touched upon the theme of cooperation with the United Arab Emirates during his recent visit to the Intellectual Belarus expo. The two countries are implementing a number of large-scale projects. 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. In this regard, Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled the Northern Waterfront project to build an experimental multifunctional complex in Minsk. “Why did I fall for this: not only because of the $5 billion in investments, but also because they promised me to create this smart city, as well as a powerful educational platform for artificial intelligence. There will be a university there. If you need support or contacts with these people (they have greatly advanced in this field), feel free to ask,” the head of state said.
In general, trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and the UAE has been steadily developing. Joint interests and prospects of cooperation lie in such areas as investment, industry, agriculture, banking and finance, transport and logistics, education and scientific research, sports and tourism, and others.
In 2021 Belarus took part in EXPO 2020 in Dubai. The national day of Belarus was organized in November. “Belarus and the United Arab Emirates have the closest relations. The history of diplomatic ties is more than 30 years old. Today, the UAE is an important trade partner for us in the Gulf region and a significant investor in the Belarusian economy. Over the past five years, trade has grown more than threefold. Bilateral trade in services is on a steady rise. We will continue to strive for mutually beneficial cooperation in trade,” Belarusian Economy Minister Aleksandr Chervyakov said at the opening ceremony of the national day.
The complementarity of the economies of Belarus and the UAE is a favorable factor for the development of trade and economic cooperation, Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko said in December 2022: “I am pleased to note a significant increase in foreign trade this year. We need to maintain the achieved momentum and to ensure further increase in trade.”
According to the head of government, 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.
As for Zimbabwe, Belarus has a long history of relations with this partner in southern Africa. In general, a lot of attention is paid to cooperation with the countries of the African continent. For example, Aleksandr Lukashenko visited Egypt and Sudan several years ago. Earlier, Belarus was actively developing relations with Libya, but the process was interrupted due to the civil war and political instability in the country, which were the result, among other things, of the interference of the West.
There are also mutual interests with a number of other African countries. At the meeting on Belarus’ foreign policy priorities in the summer of 2017, Aleksandr Lukashenko said it was necessary to develop a fully-fledged long-term strategy for Belarus’ cooperation with African countries. “There should be a fully-fledged long-term strategy of cooperation with African countries, as a number of European countries comparable to Belarus have,” the president said.
Given a strong growth of developing economies, the importance of expanding the Belarusian presence in the African market increases. “We work there, but the scale should be expanded. Do not think that Africa is nothing but poverty and they have nothing to pay for. This is not true. The world today cannot develop dynamically without the resources of this continent. We must not lose our opportunities in the competition for African markets. There is a lot of hard work to be done here.”
In June 2017, Minsk hosted the first Belarusian-African forum “Belarus and Africa: New Horizons.” The second such event was held in May-June 2021. The forum in Belarus was attended by representatives of government agencies, business and financial circles from 13 African states – Gabon, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
As for Zimbabwe, it should be noted that the leadership of this country has long been interested in cooperation with Belarus. The history of bilateral relations includes visits at the highest levels.
For example, Vice President of Zimbabwe John Nkomo visited Minsk in April 2011. “We hope very much, and apparently it will be so, that from that day on we will begin to expand relations between our countries,” the Belarusian head of state said then. “We hope that cooperation with your country will help us expand cooperation with other African countries from your territory. There is no area, no industry where we would not find common interests.”
A few years later, in July 2015, current leader of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa, vice president then, visited Belarus. “I think our cooperation should have started with specific projects. Let them be few. But it would be a signal not only to entrepreneurs in your country but also to other countries with which you border, a signal to cooperate with our country. We are very interested in it,” the Belarusian president said.
In turn, Emmerson Mnangagwa said that Zimbabwe was interested in expanding trade and economic cooperation, as well as cooperation in such areas as agriculture, mining and infrastructure.
Emmerson Mnangagwa was welcomed in Minsk as head of state in January 2019. Belarus offered Zimbabwe to build a strategy and a concrete plan to develop cooperation in the future. “We cooperate very effectively with the countries of North Africa, first of all with our friendly partner Egypt, Algeria, other countries. In Central Africa, we have a long-standing cooperation with Sudan. We would like to have a very close cooperation with the states of South Africa as well. We have been to many countries in Africa and we see that Belarus can do a lot in Zimbabwe,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said during the talks.
The Belarusian president said he would be delighted to visit Zimbabwe, but added that it was necessary to agree on and implement four or five specific projects there before doing so. “I am talking about the projects that the Zimbabwean people would see,” he said. “Zimbabwe is our important partner in the South African region, and we are committed to gradually reaching the highest level of strategic cooperation. The two countries have been steadily developing relations. However, the potential for interaction is still hugely untapped. In the coming years, we will have to do so, especially in the areas of trade and economy.”
Among the topics of bilateral cooperation discussed were supplies of trucks, buses and mining vehicles, other mining equipment, tractors and food products to the Zimbabwean market. Prospects for Belarusian participation in joint projects in agriculture, construction, energy, geological exploration, mining, and transportation were discussed. The parties talked over cooperation in education and medicine, as well.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, in turn, stressed that the main goal for Zimbabwe in cooperation with Belarus is the development of economic relations. “We have excellent political relations, which we can continue to deepen and consolidate. However, it is more important today to work on issues of economic cooperation. That is the main goal for Zimbabwe,” he said. “Yes, Zimbabwe has untapped resources in agriculture, mining. We, however, lack the means and skills to develop them. To do that, we need the help and assistance of our friends, such as the Republic of Belarus. We are here with full confidence that we will get this kind of help that will let us move forward.”