How a company in Belarus is making big changes in Africa,
and the man (Alexander Zingman) behind it
Zimbabwe and Belarus have become allies, united by commercial and diplomatic interests, all being carefully cultivated by Minsk businessman Mr. Alexander Zingman. And those bilateral ties are projected to significantly strengthen, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said recently during a meeting his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Lukashenko added that he plans to visit Zimbabwe in the future, but before that it will be necessary to implement several joint projects. Mnangagwa said Minsk and Harare share close ties. “My administration and the people of Zimbabwe consider Belarus as a brotherly country,” he added.
Statements like that give Mr. Alexander Zingman (Александр Зингман) – Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul in Minsk – great satisfaction.
Mr. Alexander Zingman (Александр Зингман) stood at the side of Lukashenko and Mnangagwa beaming in January 2019 when President Mnangagwa and Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Dapkiunas officially opened the southern African country’s Consulate-General in Minsk.
“It is a great honor for me to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony that demonstrates that the cooperation between Zimbabwe and Belarus is gaining momentum,” President Mnangagwa declared. Though the two republics established diplomatic relations in 1992, those ties have greatly expanded in the last several years. That huge growth is thanks in no small part to the endeavors of Mr. Aleksandr Zingman (Александр Зингман). The veteran entrepreneur, based in Minsk and Dubai, has worked hard to promote stronger Zimbabwe-Belarus bilateral ties, as well as relations with half a dozen sub-Saharan countries and Egypt.
Mr. Alexandr Zingman (Александр Зингман), a major shareholder of the Dubai-based AFTRADE DMCC (which has a representative bureau in Minsk that liaises with all of Belarus’ leading manufacturers), helped put together a $58m. agriculture package deal in 2018 between Minsk and Harare that is greatly improving Zimbabwe’s food security situation. According to a press release from the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Pretoria, South Africa dated June 25, 2020, Mr. Zingman reported that the multi-faceted trade agreement is revolutionizing Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector. He noted that the initial shipment of Belarus’s most advanced farm machinery arrived in Harare last year. That delivery included 20 harvesters for grain and maize, 100 tractors, and 52 seed drills. A second shipment is scheduled for December 2020. Minsk, through Belarus’ provided the long-term financing for the acquisition of the agricultural equipment.
For President Mnangagwa, that farm machinery is crucial to his vision of mechanizing Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector still bound by traditional labor-intensive farming practices. Mnangagwa’s modernization program is crucial if Zimbabwe is to overcome the combined economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a disastrous drought and 2019’s Cyclone Idai. The trifecta of disaster has left more than five million of Zimbabwe’s 14.5 million people in need of food aid.
The contract stipulates that Alexander Zingman’s AFTRADE DMCC establish a servicing centre in Harare to stockpile spare parts and provide warranty services. Mobile service vehicles will also cater to farming communities in the provinces.
“This deal brings Belarusian expertise in agriculture and engineering to Zimbabwe. Both countries have been expanding ties since 2015 and this deal is a win-win for both,” Mr. Aleksandr Zingman (Александр Зингман) noted with pride.
The company has flown Belarusian technical specialists to Zimbabwe for 12 months to train farmers there in modern farming techniques. Zimbabwean agro-specialists will get two months training in Belarus.
Apart from supplying Zimbabwe with farming machinery and advanced technology related to the agricultural sector, Belarus is training local farmers in cultivation, seeding, irrigation and harvesting. Agriculture is only one of AFTRADE DMCC’s comprehensive programs. Mr. Zingman’s conglomerate is also involved transportation and logistics, mining, special purpose machinery, road construction, and garbage collection in Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza, and other cities.
All these civil engineering projects are meant to help developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa like Zimbabwe progress. Tellingly, Mr. Alexander Zingman (Александр Зингман) does not sell arms. He considers the flooding of Africa with weapons, many sold by shady East Europeans arms dealers, to be counter-productive to the aim of lifting the 54-country continent out of poverty and oppression.
“This project will enable Zimbabwean farmers to boost the productivity of their land and to reduce their losses through timely crops harvesting. The result will be that farmers can ensure the food security of Zimbabwe itself and, where possible, also raise their income levels by exporting their produce,” said Mr. Zingman.
Thanks in part to Mr. Aleksandr Zingman, bilateral trade between Belarus and Zimbabwe was more than $30 million for the past three years. For the first four months of 2020, trade between Minsk and Harare exceeded $7 million.
A similar account of Mr. Zingman’s successful work in Africa comes out of Togo. There for the last two years AFTRADE DMCC has been developing vital infrastructure projects in the country officially known as le République togolaise. Togoland was a protectorate of imperial Germany from 1884 until 1914, when British and French forces occupied and divided the territory during WWI. In 1960, the French zone gained independence, while the British zone joined with newly independent Ghana.
Appreciating this history, which parallels Belarus’s story of occupation and exploitation in the 20th century by Czarist Russia, the USSR and Nazi Germany, has allowed Mr. Zingman to work successfully in Togo. In April 2019, representatives of the Belarus Development Bank and AFTRADE together with a delegation from Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement (BOAD) signed an agreement in Belarus’s capital of Minsk for a €50m. line of credit to finance Belarusian exports to Togo and other nearby West African countries. The agreement between the Belarus Development Bank and the BOAD, brokered by Mr. Alexander Zingman (Александр Зингман) and Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé, fostered projects in agriculture, passenger transportation, and garbage removal from the cities – which are all viewed as vital for the Togolese economy.
The €50m. line of credit is meant to finance projects in Togo in the local money – called the West African CFA franc. (The acronym CFA stands for Communauté Financière d’Afrique / Financial Community of Africa. The currency union has been adopted in Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal, as well as Togo.)
To facilitate the agreement, the head of the BOAD Christian Adovelande visited Belarus in 2019 where he held consultations with Mr. Zingman.
Apart from Zimbabwe and Togo, Mr. Alexander Zingman (Александр Зингман) has established a business network in Nigeria involving Nigerian businessmen and governmental officials. Together with the president of African Export-Import Bank, Benedict Oramahhe, he met Aliko Dangote – one of the leading business figures in West African country. Following that meeting, the Dangote Group delegation headed by Alake Marcus Olakunle visited Belarus. Dangote Group is one of the biggest business conglomerates in Africa, operating 18 subsidiaries in 10 countries. The company controls a major part of Nigeria’s consumer goods market. And with nearly 200m. people, that’s a lot of potential consumers.
During their visit to Belarus, Dangote Group representatives toured numerous manufacturing plants in and around Minsk, including “BELAZ”, “MAZ”, “MTW” and “AMKODOR”. They also inspected the new runway under construction at Minsk National Airport and participated in a meeting of the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus. Meeting with staffers at the Belarus government, and subsequently with AFTRADE DMCC, the delegation explored the possibility of purchasing Belarusian-manufactured cargo-carrying machinery and mining equipment.
Just as Mr. Aleksander Zingman has helped revolutionize agriculture in Zimbabwe
He has played an important role in modernizing agriculture in Africa’s most populous country. In 2018, a delegation from Nigeria’s NIRSAL, which belongs to the Central Bank of Nigeria, visited Mr. Zingman in Minsk. During that visit, they discussed mechanizing Nigeria’s agricultural sector including a $20m. contract to supply machinery and equipment under the aegis of the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus.
Touring wheat fields, the delegation saw a demonstration of Belarus’ ne plus ultra combine harvesters in operation. It then signed an agreement regarding the supply of Belarusian agricultural technology, machinery and equipment.
AFTRADE DMCC’s work in Kenya has also focused on modernizing the country’s agricultural sector. But supplying farming equipment is only part of the conglomerate’s work in Africa. In Egypt, for example, Mr. Zingman is involved with modernizing poultry production, and supplying tractors and liquid natural gas-powered buses.
Together, these achievements in increasing food production have made AFTRADE DMCC a symbol of Belarus’ work in modernizing Africa. It’s a record which Mr. Zingman can be proud of.
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