Aftrade, a company owned by controversial Belarusian businessman Alexander Zingman, is one of the biggest winners from a series of business deals just signed between Zimbabwe and Belarus.
Riding on Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko’s visit to Zimbabwe, Aftrade has won deals to supply tractors and harvesters to the government, contracts to build grain storage facilities, plus equipment deals in mining and timber.
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.
To plug the gap, Zimbabwe looked to Belarus and other suppliers. Zimbabwe also signed a US$51 million deal with US company John Deere for the supply of 1,300 tractors, 80 combine harvesters and other equipment. Zimbabwe is also negotiating with India’s Mahindra, which abandoned a plan in 2018 to set up an assembly plant in Zimbabwe due to forex shortages.
The supply gap has thrown up opportunities for Zingman and his associates. Belarus has already supplied equipment to Zimbabwe, but, says Lukashenko, that was only the first phase.
“But it is just the beginning. We’ve launched the third phase of the programme to the tune of over US$66 million. It provides for shipping over 3,700 tractors, 60 harvesters to the local agrarians within the next 1.5 years,” he noted.
Aftrade and MTZ, one of Europe’s biggest tractor exporters, will supply at least 3,575 tractors to Zimbabwe between 2023 and 2024. Aftrade has distribution rights for MTZ equipment in the country.
“The Zimbabwean market opened for Belarus machinery several years ago thanks to our reliable partner, Aftrade DMCC. We are glad that today we are talking about strategic partnership that envisages work on a systematic perspective basis,” MTZ director general Vitaly Vovk said.
The new tractors add to the 1,800 tractors and harvesters that MTZ has already supplied to Zimbabwe, Vovk said, giving his equipment some credit for part of Zimbabwe’s record 2022 wheat crop.
“We know that last year, for the first time in the past 50 years, the country fully provided itself with grain. It is gratifying that the country succeeded also thanks to Belarus machinery,” Vovk said.
MTZ is looking for new markets; It was a major supplier of equipment to Ukraine before the Russia war started, and also exported to the US and Canada.
Aftrade was also awarded a contract for “the supply of equipment manufactured in Belarus for the construction and modernisation of grain storage complexes”. This deal was signed by Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka and Aftrade director Olga Shevko.
No details have been given on the value of the contracts. However, Agriculture Secretary John Basera recently told the Sunday Mail that Zimbabwe needed to spend over US$275 million over the next three years to build new grain silos, adding 750,000 tonnes of storage space to the current 500,000 tonnes.
State-owned diamond company Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, which is currently expanding operations, signed a deal with BelAZ, manufacturer of some of the largest dump trucks in the world, and SOHRA Overseas FZE, another Belarusian company, for mine equipment.
Allied Timbers, which is state-owned, also signed a deal for equipment to be used by the timber producer.
Other Aftrade partners involved in business talks during the visit include Bobruiskagromash, which makes trailed agricultural machinery such as balers and fertilizer spreaders, and Lidselmash, another equipment maker.
In 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed Zingman an honorary consul of Zimbabwe to Belarus. Zingman has been accused of a role in mineral and arms deals across Africa, charges that he denies. In 2021, he was held in the DRC over gun-running charges, but was released without charge. – (NewZWire)