Zimbabwe and Iran Working Together to ‘Nullify Sanctions’

Iran is seeking to build on ties with Zimbabwe in order to ‘nullify sanctions’ currently placed on both nations. The comments came during a high-level meeting between Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, and Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister Kyelem de Tambela, on April 28th, following the closing of the Second International Conference of Iran and Africa on April 26th.

What You Need to Know:

The second Iran and Africa International Economic Conference, held at Tehran’s International Conference Center by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, was attended by representatives and economic ministers from over 30 African countries. The conference sought to explore avenues of cooperation between Africa and Iran, with President Raisi stating, “[Western states have always been] seeking to solely plunder the African countries’ wealth and resources.”

Zimbabwe’s Chiwenga, according to the Zimbabwe Herald, is intent on securing new investment source markets, stating, “We have benefitted quite a lot by attending the Second Iran-Africa International Economic Conference and to see what Iran has gone through since their great revolution and what they are producing in all sectors of the economy.”

Chiwenga then went on to praise Iran’s economic development in the face of international sanctions, urging Zimbabweans to “Remember, it’s a country under economic sanctions just like us and they have developed on their own. Their coming to Africa or any part of the world is not at a cost, but an investment.”

Raisi is seeking to achieve a ten-fold growth in bilateral trade with Africa, through the removal of obstacles to the development of Iranian-African relations. With reference to Zimbabwe, Iran’s VP Mokhber highlighted that “The Islamic Republic’s political and economic interactions with friendly countries are based on a win-win strategy.”

Chiwenga noted that, “Iran and Zimbabwe are on the same path and have many common goals,” according to the Iranian state-owned news agency IRNA.

The Details:

Currently, the US has placed sanctions on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, VP Constantino Chiwenga, and nine other individuals and three entities. The US Department of State announced in early March its intent to refocus its sanctions program in Zimbabwe on those involved in “continuing corruption and serious human rights abuses,” stating that its sanctions program does not seek to hurt the people of Zimbabwe.

Moreover, Iran is currently under autonomous sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) as a result of Iran’s nuclear program and human rights abuses. In 2020, Iran was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s ‘blacklist’, backed by 200 member nations.

Most recently, on April 25th, the United States Department of State announced its placing of sanctions on “16 entities and eight individuals, as well as identifying as blocked property five vessels and one aircraft, that have facilitated illicit trade and the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in support of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and the regime’s UAV development and procurement.”

These latest sanctions seek to disrupt Iran’s UAV manufacturing industry, due to its continued transfers of “dangerous military hardware to Russia and to regional proxies,” said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Despite this, Iran and Zimbabwe continue to build on bilateral ties, with the countries signing 12 Memoranda of Understanding in July 2023, seeking to advance cooperation in the agricultural, energy, telecommunication, pharmaceutical, and technology sectors.

During the meeting with Chiwenga, the Iranian Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITMCO), which produces tractors, trucks, vehicle parts, and diesel engines, released its investment plan for Zimbabwe.

According to the Zimbabwe Herald, Iran also expressed its interest in Zimbabwe’s lithium and gold, with Chiwenga “looking at the best possible mutually beneficial framework.”

So, What Now?:

Iran’s second edition of its International Africa Economic Conference, the first taking place in February 2022, highlights Iran’s increasing desire to establish strong ties with African nations and draw them closer into the Russian-Iranian sphere of influence. While officially the conference focused on economic matters, it is highly likely that defense cooperation was also widely discussed, although not reported by Iranian state-owned outlets nor African outlets.

How successful increased trade between Iran and Zimbabwe will be is yet to be seen, with Iran’s largest export to Zimbabwe in 2022 being dried fish and Zimbabwe’s largest export to Iran in 2020 being tobacco and tea.

It is highly likely, however, that Iran is keenly interested in Zimbabwe’s natural resources, such as its gold and lithium, as aforementioned. Any trade in these items, however, is likely to be off-record, as both countries look to lessen the brunt of the sanctions placed on them.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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