Is Africa really a promising trade partner of Belarus?

Delegation from Africa at the Minsk Tractor Plant /​
Delegation from Africa at the Minsk Tractor Plant /​

Recently, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Presidential Property Manager Viktar Sheiman again discussed partnership with African countries. And the chairman of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Uladzimir Ulakhovich stated that Africa is becoming a promising and long-term partner of Belarus.

Less than 1%

According to Belstat, in January - August 2020 Belarus traded with 16 African countries. The trade turnover reached $ 330.2 million. This is only 0.86% of the foreign trade activity volume of Belarus for eight months.

Exports amounted to $ 235 million or 1.3% of all Belarusian exports.

Imports are even smaller: $ 95.1 million or 0.47% of all that Belarus bought abroad in January-August.

Трактор, деньги, два ствола: как и чем Беларусь торгует с Африкой
Belstat / Euroradio data

There was a surge in imports in 2015. It was mainly due to purchases from Morocco for $ 300.1 million. One of the possible explanations is that at that time Russia imposed a food embargo on Western products and fruits and vegetables from Morocco were resold to Russia.

In subsequent years, imports from Morocco decreased significantly and stayed at $ 21-35 million.

Exports to Africa are growing mainly due to trade with Egypt, but there also happen downturns from time to time. To a lesser extent, but growth is achieved by trade with Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal.

In general, it is difficult to call trade relations with African countries stable.

Трактор, деньги, два ствола: как и чем Беларусь торгует с Африкой
Belstat / Euroradio data

The largest trade turnover in January - August of this year was with Morocco -- almost $ 67 million, then goes Egypt with $ 50.7 million. Belarus made $ 36.8 million trading with Cote d'Ivoire.

Exports to Zimbabwe increased 177 times

With Zimbabwe so often visited by Viktar Sheiman, the trade turnover is much less -- $ 17.3 million. But by January - August last year, it increased 7.2 times.

The increase was due to the supply of agricultural machinery, but it can hardly be called a great achievement. Back in 2014, exports to Zimbabwe reached $ 12.4 million, and in 2017 - almost $ 19 million. Then the Ministry of Industry supplied mining dump trucks and loaders to Zimbabwe.

On September 30, Belarus and Zimbabwe agreed to supply 3,000 tractors.

A third of arms exports go to Africa and Asia

True, Belarus trades with Africa not only in agricultural machinery.

Last September, Raman Halouchanka, then chairman of the State Military-Industrial Committee, said that the export of military products from Belarus exceeded $ 1 billion. According to him, about a third of these products went to Africa and Asia.