HARARE – The embattled Zimbabwean government has asked Russia for larger supplies of agricultural products and for deliveries of petroleum products, Russian Natural Resources, and Environment Minister Alexander Kozlov told Interfax after a fourth meeting of the Russian-Zimbabwean Intergovernmental Commission in Harare.
Analysts in Zimbabwe see Russia’s willingness to help Mnangagwa’s beleaguered regime as a reward for its support to Russia in the ongoing Ukrainian war.
Zimbabwe is among the 24 countries that voted against a United Nations General Assembly Resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council in April.
The resolution was adopted in Geneva after 93 out of the UN 193 member states voted in its favour, while 58 abstained.
Zimbabwe also abstained from voting against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the UN General Assembly and defended its position saying it does not support the imposition of sanctions against member States.
According to a report by Interfax on the ongoing Russian-Zimbabwean Intergovernmental Commission in Harare, the Russian Natural Resources, and Environment Minister Alexander Kozlov revealed to Russian media that; “the government of Zimbabwe has proposed to increase the volumes of wheat and vegetable oil supplies and start deliveries of petroleum products,”.
Therefore, it was suggested that the Zimbabwean agriculture and energy ministries draft a specific request that would indicate the number of additional deliveries and the logistical chains, he said.
The share of agrarian products in Russia’s exports has been growing in recent years, mainly due to wheat and mineral fertilizers, Kozlov said.
According to the Union of Grain Exporters, Russia supplied 11,900 tonnes of wheat to Zimbabwe in 2021 up from 810 tonnes in 2019.
Meanwhile, the ongoing Fourth Session of the Zimbabwe-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation in Harare is expected to expand the scope of bilateral relations between the two countries.
The three-day Zimbabwe Russia Economic Engagement was filled with discussions meant to spearhead mutually beneficial partnerships in the two countries’ productive sectors.
The engagement culminated in the signing of memoranda of understanding in various sectors, with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Ambassador Fredrick Shava describing the meeting as enriching to Zimbabwe’s economic development journey.
“We have had productive engagements over the past three days which we are confident will improve our economic fortunes,” said Ambassador Shava.
Russian Federation head of delegation, Honourable Alexander Kozlov is clear on Russia’s mission to intensify investments in agriculture, mining and industrial development.
“Our main goal is to increase trade in all the country’s productive sectors including supplying fertilisers that are critically needed in the agricultural sector,” he said.
Close economic cooperation with a global giant like Russia is expected to propel Zimbabwe’s quest to become an upper middle in-come society by 2030.
In the year since the soft military coup in Zimbabwe that removed long-term leader Robert Mugabe from power, the country’s new, more predictable leadership has elicited keen interest from China and Russia.
Having fallen for Mugabe’s empty promises in the past, Moscow has sought to establish cooperation with Harare not only in the traditional commodities sector but also in new areas.
For example, Russians played a significant role in the July 2018 presidential election that saw the ruling party’s Emmerson Mnangagwa (who replaced Mugabe after the coup) officially elected. This localized is seen as the more systemic Russian participation in political processes across the African continent.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Zimbabwe in March 2018, followed in April by Sergei Ivanov Jr., CEO of Russian diamond miner Alrosa. One of the issues discussed during the visit of the former was the development of the Darwendale platinum deposit by Great Dyke Investments (Pvt) Ltd., a Russian-Zimbabwean joint venture.
The Darwendale deposit could be the second largest in the world, with estimated investment volumes reaching $2.8 billion through 2055.
Russia’s activity in Zimbabwe still pales in comparison to that of China, the largest foreign investor in the country and the main source of hard currency, which is in deficit there, for the authorities. But the scale of the Chinese presence should not be overestimated, either: the volume of projects currently being implemented is many times lower than the sums announced.
China currently accounts for just 5–7 percent of Zimbabwe’s export-import market, compared with South Africa’s share of 50 percent of foreign trade turnover. The Chinese approach seems to be to first secure political influence and ensure the situation is stable, and only then move on to implementing truly major investment projects.
The government of Zimbabwe announced its interest in the East with its “Look East Policy” back in 2003 as a response to U.S. and EU sanctions, but the African nation has still not been able to fully replace those Western investors. This is largely due to its own inconsistent and short-sighted policies.
For example, because of the decision to nationalize diamond mining in 2016, not only did the “hostile” transnational firm Rio Tinto lose its assets, but so did the friendly Russian firm Zarubezhgeologia, as well as several Chinese companies.
In response to the pressure of sanctions, Russia is beginning to show interest in even the most distant spots on the map: any countries where a government skeptical of the West can be supported with minimal resources. And in these countries, Russia is greeted with eager anticipation.
The West can count on virtually no one in Zimbabwe. The UK and the United States have long lost control of the situation there, and now China and South Africa, as Zimbabwe’s main partners, are interested in the political and economic stabilization of the country. Local elites perceive Russia as weak, but also as at least some kind of counterweight to China’s influence. Given the difference in scale of the two parties’ economic interests, however, this competition is largely nominal.