Iranian president Ahmadinejad did a few rounds in Africa early this week in what may as well be his last foreign trip as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As he paid visit to three African nations beginning with Benin on Monday, his thoughts must have revolved around the passionate hate he draws from the west and the work he must do to compensate the hate with a fair amount of love from Africa. If the cordial welcome he seemed to enjoy in all the three West African nations he toured was nothing but honest, then Ahmadinejad can go home contented that even if the west can’t stand him, he has a shoulder to lean on in Africa- a continent that is now attracting global business interests as Africa’s business opportunities officially ‘explode’ before the eyes of the world.
While in Benin, he reiterated that his country is not at all involved in the creation of the deadly atomic bomb, saying it serves them no use. Instead he hailed nuclear energy, terming it a ‘divine gift’ that the world ought to turn to for low cost power. Such claims make little sense to the west because the powers there believe that Tehran is secretly putting together a nuclear bomb, a claim that Iran rubbishes vehemently and insists their nuclear program is for purposes of health and energy.
His next stop after Benin was Niger, a top uranium producer in the world. Ahmadinejad was perhaps hoping to take advantage of a simmering feud between Niger and France over a uranium agreement. Niger is putting pressure on its former colonial master France, asking for more profit stakes from all uranium heading to France. Those in support of Ahmadinejad’s Niger visit say the country is entitled to explore new partnerships that will give it better bargaining power to ensure profits from uranium are enjoyed fairly by both parties.
He finally landed in Ghana, another African nation that is demonstrating a strong showing on African Business. Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama welcomed Ahmadinejad, saying the visit should not be interpreted in bad test because Ahmadinejad was visiting just like any other leader and it was in order to welcome him. Perhaps the Ghanaian president was aware of the disquiet among some Ghanaians who feel that welcoming Ahmadinejad to Ghana is not an honorable thing to do. The critics say the visit could create bad blood between Ghana and the west which watches every move Ahmadinejad makes and notes every word he utters.
But an African Business Analyst who spoke to Bizrika said Ahmadinejad’s visit to Africa may not necessarily be a sign of anything binding between Iran and the three countries he visited. It could as well be interpreted as a desperate move by the Iranian leader to intensify friendship elsewhere and hopefully reduce the burden his country is suffering as a result of the dire sanctions already imposed by western countries. Iran has several investments in Africa, ranging from education to trading arrangements with a number of African countries.