Economy, Domestic Economy

Tanzania-Iran Relations: Changing the Dynamics

Tanzania-Iran Relations: Changing the DynamicsTanzania-Iran Relations: Changing the Dynamics

As Iran’s Foreign Ministry continues to foster warmer relations with countries around the world, this month’s turn was the sub-Saharan African country of Tanzania. Javad Zarif was in town as part of his wider tour of Africa to discuss trade relations amongst other things.

IRNA news agency said, Zarif and his delegation met with Tanzanian officials to address “issues of common interest.” The local report, like many on the FM’s tour of Africa, failed to go to in-depth details about possible trade deals with the African country.

To understand the good relations between the peoples of Tanzania and Iran, you have to look beyond the post colonial era of the African country. Tanzania is well known to have Persians settling and trading on its coasts, including the semi-independent island of Zanzibar, which hosts cultural links between the two sea fairing nations as far back as the 8th and the 9th century.

Zanzibar and the coasts of Tanzania have always been seen as a strategically important location for trade of its food production and its mineral wealth with Middle Eastern cultures. Through the era of European conquest, many Asians made their way to the country to work in many positions through the years.

In more recent times, Iran and Tanzania have developed substantial ties through joint economic commissions amongst some of the newly created vehicles. Back in 2006 Iran’s ambassador to Tanzania Abbas Va’ezi met with the Tanzanian minister for natural resources and tourism to discuss ways to expand cooperation on bringing Iranian tourists to the African country.

In October 2008, Iran and Tanzania signed an MoU on economic cooperation which covered a wide range of fields, including energy projects, infrastructure, banking and investments projects. Relations warmed further in 2009 when Iran’s then First Vice President Parvis Davoudi toured many cities in the African country saying that Iran hoped to set up an agricultural office on the island of Zanzibar and in the former capital of Dar-es-Salaam. By January 2010, relations had become so good that agreements were signed on fisheries, cement production and meat processing.

So, this latest meeting between Zarif and Tanzanian officials has been a long time coming, with both sides mutually building trust.

His meeting last week in the African country highlighted one of a few things, namely Iran’s trouble in regaining its money from other countries and the pressure aggressive powers, namely the United States, have been exerting through those countries.

The announcement that Tanzania would send a delegation to Tehran to discuss repayment of $77million back payment owed to Iran suggests financial restrictions are beginning to loosen now that talks in Geneva are well under way. “We will soon send the team to find out how Iran can reduce or write off the said debt,” Zarif said, noting that it has been increasing as a result of accumulating interests.

The minister also took along a group of entrepreneurs who also expressed an interest in creating joint ventures, AA newswire reported.

The foreign minister’s trip has been hailed as a positive step in many circles in the country, with business people in Dar-es-Salaam discussing the potential of wider business relations between the two.

The Financial Tribune managed to speak with one business person in Dar-es-Salaam, Mohammad Nanabhai, who said: “I think both countries can benefit from each other. Tanzania has great potential in resources of oil and gas. It could in turn use Iran’s expertise in health and vocational education.”