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"Use lithium to negotiate your way out of sanctions" UN officials tells Zimbabwe

A senior United Nations (UN) official has advised Zimbabwe to leverage its vast lithium resources to negotiate itself out of Western sanctions.

NewsDay, on February 19, quoted UN Development Programme (UNDP) representative in the southern African nation Ayodele Odusola as telling a business event recently:

"All countries would want to be major players in the lithium sub-sector globally, why can't we use it.  Zimbabwe must use what it has to get what it wants. All these countries that are imposing sanctions, let me tell you, Zimbabwe has got what they want."

Zimbabwe has been under US, British and European Union sanctions since 2001.  The Western powers accuse the government of Zimbabwe of human and property rights abuses. 

However, the African nation rejects the allegations, arguing that the measures were imposed to punish it for its programme of compulsorily acquiring farms from some 4,000 white farmers and parcelling it out to more than 380,000 blacks.  It says the programme, it launched in 2000, is meant to democratise a land ownership structure that favoured whites since the onset of British colonialism in the 1890s to 1980.

Zimbabwe's Africa's top lithium producer and ranks sixth globally.  The mineral is used in the production of solar panels and energy storage systems which are central in a decarbonising world.  All the three producing mines in the country are owned by Chinese investors.

"I strongly believe we need to use it (lithium) as a way to negotiate our way out of sanctions," Odusola said at the event held in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital.

"Ethiopia leveraged on opportunities of its diaspora. There are so many Zimbabweans all over the world, can we leverage on that not only for the opportunity of mobilising resources, but also using them as our champions to work with the government."