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What's behind Iran's ambitious push for influence in Africa?

With a key Tehran conference hosting African nations, the Islamic Republic is moving to catch up with such heavyweight investors as China and Russia, pursuing geopolitical interests in Africa through both trade ties and the shipment of military equipment.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (C) inspects the guard of honor upon his arrival for a state visit at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on July 13, 2023.

TEHRAN — Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi, offered African nations technology and know-how, expressing the Islamic Republic's keenness to get involved in the exploration of the continent's vast resources.

Raisi was addressing the second Iran and Africa Economic Conference in Tehran on Friday, as delegations from 30 African countries convened with Iranian authorities to discuss economic relations, according to Raisi's official website. 

Hailing the four-day event as a "symbol of determination in Iran and Africa to expand relations," Raisi said some 10,000 Iranian firms — involved in technological and scientific sectors — have raised Iran's total trade with African nations to an annual $2 billion level. 

"African states are asking for products by knowledge-based Iranian companies," he declared, while seizing the opportunity to renew the Islamic Republic's anti-Western rhetoric by accusing the United States and European powers of "pillaging African wealth." He claimed that unlike the West, Iran is after authentic cooperation for the sake of "Africa's progress."

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