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Indonesia’s Jokowi Deepens Global South Ties in Africa Tour

Jakarta bags energy, vaccine deals in landmark visits by president

JAKARTA — Indonesia has bagged new deals, ranging from palm oil and vaccine exports to energy and mineral partnerships, in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s trip to four African countries this week.

Widodo arrived in Kenya on Sunday for the start of the weeklong trip, after which he flew to Tanzania and then Mozambique before arriving in South Africa on Wednesday evening for the BRICS summit.

The tour was Widodo’s first trip to Africa as president, and the first-ever trip by a sitting president of Southeast Asia’s largest economy to Kenya and Mozambique.

The tour marks a new turn in Indonesia’s economic diplomacy in its search for new export markets for pharmaceutical products and commodities, such as palm oil, and to secure critical minerals to support its ambition to become a hub for manufacturing batteries and electric vehicles.

On the sidelines of the Kenya visit, two memorandums of understanding were signed for a combined $2.2 billion investment in geothermal power projects involving Pertamina Geothermal Energy, a unit of Indonesian state-owned energy giant Pertamina, and two Kenyan geothermal companies. 

Several other memorandums were signed toward shipments of Indonesian vaccines and other pharmaceutical products to Kenya, imports of Kenyan livestock to Indonesia, a joint venture for the development of palm-oil plantations and an oil refinery in Kenya, among others.

Widodo called for immediate talks on a preferential trade agreement (PTA) and a bilateral investment treaty to support implementation of these preliminary agreements.

“Indonesia can be an entry for Kenya into ASEAN, and Kenya can be an entry for Indonesia into the sub-Saharan Africa [markets],” said the president of Indonesia, which holds the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year, after meeting with Kenyan President William Ruto.   

In Tanzania, Widodo similarly called for a preferential trade agreement and a bilateral investment treaty upon securing approval for exports of Indonesian pharmaceutical products to Tanzania and witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding for Pertamina’s planned investment in a Tanzanian gas block.

In Mozambique, Widodo credited the Indonesia-Mozambique PTA launched last year for a significant jump in bilateral trade so far this year. Mozambique is Indonesia’s first PTA partner in Africa. 

Widodo said after a meeting with President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday that Indonesia had also secured deals to procure pharmaceutical products and invest in development of natural gas and the power generation sector in Mozambique.

“The Global South is home to 85% of the world’s population, so the world should listen to [our] voices and interests — including the right to do developmental leaps,” Widodo said during a joint news conference after his meeting with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday.

Indonesia is known to be approaching some African countries to secure deposits of lithium, especially after disappointing results from a similar bid in Australia, where Widodo went last month. Indonesia needs lithium to complement its wealth of nickel, another key material in lithium-ion batteries, to support its ambitions for battery and EV development. 

The Indonesian presidential office cited some signings on mineral exploration and development projects during the trip, but no specific deal on lithium has been mentioned so far.

Leaders of some of the resource-rich African countries said they had been impressed with Indonesia’s ban on nickel ore and bauxite exports to support mining downstreaming and industrialization, and expressed interest in doing the same themselves. 

“We’d like to listen more from your experience on how to be free from dependence on raw materials trade through your country’s policy of banning nickel and bauxite exports,” said Mozambique President Nyusi, whose speech in a local language was translated to Indonesian, in a meeting with Widodo. 

Widodo is also drumming up support from African countries for matters such as the transition away from carbon-emitting sources of energy such as coal, as pressure is growing on developing countries to move away from fossil fuels but pledges of support from developed nations have been slow to materialize.

The Indonesian president is attending the BRICS summit as an observer, and has not confirmed previous reports suggesting that Jakarta is seeking to join the bloc.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Jakarta is also seeking African countries’ support for Indonesia’s bid to join the United Nations Security Council as a nonpermanent member for the 2029-30 period.

Source : Nikkei Asia