In an interview to Sputnik, Zimbabwean politician, ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) party speaker, Christopher Mutsvangwa, outlines his country's eagerness to join the BRICS block, as well as to enhance cooperation with Russia.
The politician notes that BRICS is a desirable platform to join due to its transparency and lack of ideology that could affect the countries' cooperation, also expressing hope for BRICS' further growth.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the number of countries wishing to join BRICS and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) has increased significantly.
"It's worth mentioning that over the past couple of years, including during the first year of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, the number of countries that want to join the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has increased dramatically. As of now, there are about twenty of them," Lavrov stated.
Potential candidates for accession also include countries such as Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, the UAE, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey.
Among the reasons for joining the group of leading emerging economies, Mutsvangwa names the opportunity to use the substitute payment system within BRICS, as it will give Zimbabwe an opportunity to bypass SWIFT.
After the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, Russian banks were cut off from the SWIFT by the European Union. The decision was made by the EU Council and it was published on March 2 in the Official Journal of the European Union after which it immediately entered into force.
The ZANU–PF party speaker recalls that Zimbabwe has been under US sanctions for 22 years, adding that sanctions imposed against Russia should not affect trade between the two countries.
The Zimbabwean politician outlines the fact that many countries, including BRICS member-states – India, China and others, are seeking to find an alternative to dollar.
According to Mutsvangwa, the US currency plays a role of a limiting factor in trade. Thus, for instance, Zimbabwe provides trade operations with Belarus via African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) with headquarters in Cairo, as it is "neutral", and "is not part of the SWIFT system".
According to Mutsvangwa, Russian and Zimbabwean central banks should establish an exchange in national currencies, as well as to ensure trade in gold reserves, adding that as both countries have rich reserves of gold they should ensure bilateral trade in gold as well.
"We should use our own money. So, the two banks should find a way where the Zimbabwe dollar and Russian ruble can be settled and then they can set off the difference," Mutsvangwa says.
Mutsvangwa also outlines that under sanctions’ pressure it would be possible to use digital currencies, as well as to work with independent banks.
He also states that the resistance to the "dictates of the West" and the United States is growing in Africa, as countries are intended to develop independently, adding that Africans now realize that most of their resources are concentrated on the continent, while western countries want to take them away, as they "always did in the colonial era".
The official also emphasizes Africans' thankfulness to Russia and to its predecessor – the USSR – as it helped African countries to gain independence in the previous century.
He notes that due to close historical ties with the USSR, about a quarter of Zimbabwe's military, especially among the command staff, studied in Russia.
In this respect, Mutsvangwa tells journalists that a monument to Russia's victory in the Great Patriotic War will be established in the Museum of the Liberation of Africa, which currently under construction in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare.
Recently, Mutsvangva participated in negotiations with a delegation from Russia's Sverdlovsk region headed by the Minister of International and Foreign Economic Relations of the region Vyacheslav Yarin, reports indicated. As the Zimbabwean politician notes, the negotiations were very successful, as the parties discussed several areas in which the regions of the two countries could cooperate.
The talks focused mostly on potential cooperation between the Sverdlovsk Region and the Midlands Province (Zimbabwe), which is rich in steel deposits. The official notes that this year, Zimbabwe expects to start producing steel, adding that the country has all the necessary resources, including deposits of excellent quality iron ore, "one of the best in the world", as well as reserves of coking coal in western Zimbabwe, all of which is necessary for steel production.
According to the politician, Zimbabwe intends to be a green energy market player, and since the country has large lithium deposits, it could make components for electric vehicles. The scope of potential cooperation with Russia is very wide, and the delegation arrived at the right time, outlines the Zimbabwean official.
Mutswangwa stresses that among various areas of cooperation, Moscow and Harare also cooperate in the diamond mining industry, with the Russian company "Alrosa" operating in Zimbabwe. The politician also notes that Zimbabwe has become the fourth largest diamond producer in the world, adding that the country is determined to continue to work with Russian companies engaged in diamond mining and processing. Russia is the top diamond producer in the world as it occupies about one third of the global diamond production market.
The politician also sheds light on lithium mining as the bilateral point of contact. Zimbabwe is among the five countries with the largest lithium deposits, notes the politician, adding that the gradual transition from hydrocarbon fuel to electric transport would allow the country to develop cooperation with Russia, which, he stressed, is the world’s largest energy player.
The demand for lithium is growing year after year as it continues to power batteries for many electrical devices, including laptops and cell phones, as well as electric vehicles, thus being a key mineral in terms of the so-called "green transition".
Zimbabwe imposed a ban on the export of lithium raw materials in December 2022 in order to combat smuggling and promote the domestic processing of lithium. The country's government has announced that it is losing €1.7 billion due to the export of unprocessed minerals.
In addition, Mutswangwa suggests that countries could cooperate on non-renewable energy sources. The politician notes that Zimbabwe is engaged in oil exploration, but so far imports it. Moreover, he notes that Russia could help Zimbabwe build an oil pipeline to Mozambique, an important oil producer in the region. The politician called on the Sverdlovsk region to help the African country in the construction of the pipeline, so that the country could be guaranteed to receive oil from Mozambique.
The official also notes that Russia and Zimbabwe could cooperate in the field of logistics: construction of ports, railways, generation and distribution of electricity, as well as in hydropower. Mutsvangwa outlines that such coopeartion is quite relevant as Zimbabwe is now on the verge of a great economic leap with foreign investments being at a high level.
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