Tractors, energy and anti-West rhetoric were on the table as Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi held talks in Zimbabwe on Thursday, the last leg of a three-nation tour meant to expand his country’s economic reach in Africa.
Raisi and President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed 12 MoUs, which include plans for the construction of a tractor assembly plant in Zimbabwe. The proposed project would be between Iran Tractor Manufacturing Industrial Company (ITMCO), one of the largest tractor suppliers to the Middle East, and local partners. Another of the MoUs was on the potential supply of medical equipment and drugs from Caspian Tamin Pharmaceutical Company, Iran’s leading pharmaceutical company.
Zimbabwe and Iran also agreed to cooperate on petroleum and gas, agriculture, telecommunications and technology projects.
“An establishment of a tractor factory in Zimbabwe will go a long way in modernising and mechanising our agriculture,” Mnangagwa said.
Raisi arrived at the RGM International Airport to anti-Western songs by ZANU PF supporters. For Mnangagwa, Iran is a perfect fit for Zimbabwe, as both countries are seeking ways to evade US sanctions.
“It is critically important that we the victims of the Western sanctions are talking to each other. The authors of these sanctions would not want us to talk to each other. But because we are both victims, it is equally important that we show them that we are united. And I am happy that we share this view,” Mnangagwa told Raisi.
According to Raisi, Iranian investment is meant to advance African economies, whereas, he said, America is using technology for the destruction of humanity.
“Technology should serve humanity but some people are trying to manipulate and exploit technology. They are trying to use it against human life instead of serving life. This has been our objection to the United States and the Western world,” said Raisi.
“Our cooperation with Zimbabwe and our cooperation with the African continent, which is a continent full of potential, could help us for mutual advances.”
Four years ago, Zimbabwe announced that it needed 40 000 tractors, at a time when only 9000 were available to work Zimbabwe’s 4 130 000ha of arable land. Of this land, one million hectares was under animal and manual draught power, with just 500 000ha mechanised. Zimbabwe has recently signed tractor supply deals with MTZ of Belarus and John Deere.
Iran has a GDP of US$368 billion, according to IMF figures, making it the 43rd largest economy in the world.
Trade between Iran with Zimbabwe is negligible, with data showing that Zimbabwe imported only US$3.6 million worth of equipment and furnishings from Iran in 2021. Trade with Africa is currently US$2 billion, according to its foreign ministry.
Raisi visited Kenya and Uganda earlier in the week, signing similar MoUs there. This is the first tour of Africa by an Iranian leader since 2013, and the first to Zimbabwe since former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Zimbabwe in 2010.