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How a Small Company is making big changes in Africa and The Man Behind It

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How a Small Company is making big changes in Africa and The Man Behind It

July 17
02:28 2020

When Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Dapkiunas cut the ribbon in January 2019 opening the African country’s Consulate-General in Belarus, Aleksandr Zingman – Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul in Minsk – was at their side beaming.

“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,” Mnangagwa declared. Though diplomatic relations between the two republics were established in 1992, those ties have blossomed in recent years, thanks in no small part to the endeavors of Alexander  Zingman, a veteran businessman based in Minsk and Dubai, who has worked hard to promote stronger Zimbabwe-Belarus bilateral ties, as well as relations with half a dozen sub-Saharan countries and Egypt.

Alexander Zingman, a Shareholder of the Dubai, based AFTRADE DMCC (which has a representative office in Belarus’ capital that liaisons with all of Belarus’ leading manufacturers), helped put together a $58m. agriculture package deal in 2018 between Minsk and Harare that is significantly 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, Alexander Zingman said the multi-faceted deal will revolutionize Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector. The initial shipment of Belarus’s most modern farm machinery has already arrived in Harare. The delivery included 20 harvesters for grain and maize, 100 tractors, and 52 seed drills. A second shipment is scheduled for December 2020. Minsk provided the long-term financing for the acquisition of the agricultural equipment.

“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,” Zingman noted with pride.

For Zimbabwe’s president Mnangagwa, the agricultural machinery is crucial to his vision to mechanize the entire agricultural sector still bound by traditional labor-intensive farming practices. The president’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 Zimbabweans in need of food aid.

The contract stipulates that Zingman’s AFTRADE DMCC establish a servicing centre in Harare to stockpiling spare parts and providing warranty services. Mobile service vehicles will also cater to farming communities in the provinces.

The company has sent 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. Alexander Zingman’s conglomerate is also involved transportation and logistics, mining, special purpose machinery, road constructions, and garbage removal from cities.

All these civil engineering projects are meant to help developing countries like Zimbabwe progress. Tellingly, Zingman 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 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 Zingman.

Thanks in part to 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 story of Zingman’s success 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 Alexander 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 Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement (BOAD), brokered by Zingman and Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé, fostered projects in agriculture, passenger transportation, and garbage removal from the citieswhich 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 had consultations with Zingman.

Apart from Zimbabwe and Togo, Zingman 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 Nigeria. 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 Alexander 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 Zigman 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 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, 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 Alexander Zingman can be proud of.

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