China’s Win-Win In Zimbabwe: Lithium For Regime Legitimacy – Evaluation

By Wilder Alejandro Sanchez

The Individuals’s Republic of China has introduced a large USD 2.79 billion funding in its lithium mining operations in Zimbabwe. Mining within the African nation will assist placate Beijing’s rising starvation for essential minerals; nevertheless, as a dictatorial authorities, we can’t count on this monetary inflow to assist Zimbabweans aside from the nation’s rulers.

China’s mining operations in Zimbabwe

China’s mining operations in Zimbabwe have considerably elevated this 12 months. Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe, a part of China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, opened a USD 300 million lithium processing plant in Goromonzi, about 80 kilometers southeast of Harare, the nation’s capital. The plant’s opening, which passed off in July, was praised by Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa. “Lithium is the mineral of the current and the long run … and worth addition will place our nation as an rising and aggressive participant within the world lithium worth chain,” he stated through the opening ceremony.

Furthermore, Sinomine Useful resource Group’s native unit, Bikita Minerals, has commenced trial manufacturing at a brand new spodumene and petalite plant in Masvingo province. As soon as the Bikita Minerals lithium mine growth venture reaches most manufacturing capability, it’s anticipated to yearly produce 300,000 tons of high-quality chemical-grade spodumene focus. The professional-government Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald reviews that the lithium mine in Masvingo exhibits “reserves of 65 million tonnes.”

A number of Chinese language mining firms function throughout the landlocked African nation: Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, Sinomine Useful resource Group, Chengxin Lithium Group, Yahua Group, and Canmax Applied sciences. The businesses have “have spent greater than $1 billion over the previous two years to accumulate and develop lithium tasks in Zimbabwe.”

The most recent growth occurred not too long ago. On 1 November, Bloomberg reported that Chinese language firms have been awarded USD 2.79 billion “of funding movement into Zimbabwe, largely in mining and vitality.” In keeping with Harare, Zimbabwe reportedly earned USD 209 million from lithium exports within the first three quarters of 2023.

The federal government of Zimbabwe understands the significance of lithium and the way the nation can revenue huge. In 2022, Harare banned the export of uncooked lithium. There may be logic for this choice: Harare not solely desires lithium extracted and exported in a foreign country; authorities additionally need battery-grade lithium to be refined domestically. This technique would imply extra infrastructure, jobs, and accelerated financial progress. Knowledge journalist Isabeau van Halm notes that the export ban “won’t apply to mining firms that already personal or are developing processing crops,” just like the Chinese language firms. “Maintaining elements of the availability chain in Zimbabwe will imply the nation will see extra income from the extraction of its minerals,” she provides.

Beijing’s continental engagement

It’s well-known that Beijing has carried an aggressive, multi-pronged overseas coverage towards Africa, together with organizing the well-known Sino-African summits, referred to as the Discussion board on China-Africa Cooperation, the latest of which passed off just about (as a consequence of COVID) in 2021. In July, Africanews revealed a supportive article about Sino-African cooperation titled “The China-Africa Commerce Biennale bears fruitful outcomes.” The article mentioned the third China-Africa financial and commerce expo in July in Changsha Metropolis, Hunan province. A complete of “USD 10.3 billion value of tasks” had been reportedly signed through the expo, which attracted “over 100 000 guests and resulted in 74 cooperative tasks.”

Harare has been obsessed with partnering with Beijing and attracting Chinese language funding. Leaving apart mining, Zimbabwean firms participated within the sixth China Worldwide Import Expo (CIIE), which passed off in Shanghai on 5-10 November. The businesses which attended included design, leather-based, telecommunications, and advertising and marketing. In keeping with the Chinese language embassy in Zimbabwe, bilateral commerce reached USD 2.43 billion within the first 9 months of this 12 months.

Zimbabwe sinks deeper into dictatorship

Landlocked and resource-rich Zimbabwe is one in all Africa’s prime lithium producers. Nevertheless, as an alternative of being an financial powerhouse, the nation is sadly extra well-known for all of the flawed causes. After long-time dictator Robert Mugabe (1924-2019) was faraway from energy in November 2017, ending a three-decade rule that commenced in 1987, there was hope that the nation would take pleasure in extra freedom and financial growth. This has not occurred. President Mnangagwa (a former ally of Mugabe) got here to energy in 2017 by way of a coup d’etat and was subsequently elected president in 2018. He was re-elected within the nation’s controversial 2023 elections. His social gathering, ZANU-PF, additionally has a majority within the Nationwide Meeting.

Since coming to energy, Mnangagwa has behaved extra like a dictator than a democratic reformer. In 2022, he signed the Legal Legislation Codification and Reform Modification Invoice 2022, often known as the Patriotic Invoice, which, amongst others, criminalized “any citizen caught willfully injuring Zimbabwe’s sovereignty, dignity and independence as a nation” and in addition criminalized “those that take part in conferences with the intention to advertise, advance, encourage, instigate or advocate sanctions or commerce boycotts in opposition to the nation.”

In keeping with Amnesty Worldwide, all through 2022, the best to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe was threatened by the cybercrimes legislation used to arrest journalists, whereas the rights to freedom of expression and peaceable meeting had been more and more threatened. Opposition chief Takudzwa Ngadziore has claimed that he was kidnapped and tortured. The re-election of Mnangagwa and the signing of the Patriotic Invoice recommend that the scenario won’t enhance within the foreseeable future. The US Division of State has “strongly condemn[ed] the intimidation and disruption of lawful election observers all through the electoral interval.”

Since Chinese language lithium mining will solely enhance in Zimbabwe, monitoring mining practices in Chinese language-owned mines will likely be important. Investigations have revealed unsafe working circumstances within the Chinese language-run Arcadia lithium mine, the place two staff died earlier this 12 months.

There have been no reported protests by Zimbabweans in opposition to the not too long ago introduced mining tasks. For comparability, Panamanians took to the streets in late October in response to a controversial contract with Canada’s First Quantum Minerals over a copper mining venture. Equally, in 2022 in Cameroon, lots of of civilians protested in Lolabe, a coastal village by the Atlantic Ocean, in opposition to a brand new contract with the Chinese language firm Sinosteel Cam S.A. over iron ore. Protests might additionally get away sooner or later in Zimbabwe if lethal mining accidents proceed or if air pollution and environmental destruction brought on by these new lithium tasks enhance. Sadly, President Mnangagwa’s insurance policies and former deployments of police and troops to crack down on protests recommend that if uprisings over mining points happen, they can even be met with violent crackdowns.

Paradoxically, one factor that Zimbabwe shouldn’t be is a polluting nation. Total, Africa contributes 2%-3% of the worldwide greenhouse gasoline emissions inflicting local weather change. Zimbabwe contributes lower than 0.1%. In 2021, Zimbabwe dedicated to lowering Greenhouse Gasoline (GHG) emissions by 40% in 2030. Researchers from the Stockholm Setting Institute, College of York, have revealed a tutorial essay entitled “Local weather change mitigation in Zimbabwe and hyperlinks to sustainable growth” within the Environmental Improvement journal. The report argues that this goal may be achieved by implementing 28 particular insurance policies and measures.


Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mining Improvement Minister Zhemu Soda has praised the nation’s lithium reserves and potential: “our nation can enhance its income era by investing within the exploration and discovery of recent battery mineral deposits that may be extracted and bought to world markets.” And by “world markets,” the minister undoubtedly meant China. There are simple monetary causes in favor of buying and selling with a large market like China, because the Asian powerhouse’s starvation for assets, together with essential minerals, can result in very worthwhile offers. As a rustic with extreme poverty, together with meals poverty, Zimbabwe wants all of the monetary earnings it could get.

Nevertheless, there are apparent issues concerning the nation changing into too depending on China. Furthermore, the continued mineral tasks and new bulletins for funding additionally give legitimacy to President Mnangagwa’s administration. Sadly, ample proof demonstrates that he behaves in a Mugabe-esque method.

China’s technique of befriending dictators continues to repay as Beijing obtains entry to essential minerals and different assets its inhabitants, industries, and economic system require. In the meantime, President Mnangagwa is strengthening his partnership with a significant investor and commerce accomplice. Whereas Zimbabweans receives a commission to work in Chinese language-owned lithium mines, and there may be actually revenue to be made by coping with Chinese language firms and coming into the large Chinese language market, finally, the Beijing-Harare partnership helps Zimbabwe’s (new) dictator stay in energy.

This text was revealed by Geopolitical