The move will allow landlocked Zimbabwe to strengthen economic ties with like-minded nations, its defense minister says Zimbabwe’s defense minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. © AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwe is ready to join BRICS, which will provide it with a more favorable environment for free trade with other member states, the southern African nation’s defense minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, announced on Monday.

Muchinguri-Kashiri made the statement during the BRICS international inter-party forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok, according to Zimbabwe’s state-owned daily, The Herald.

“Zimbabwe, like many of the other countries represented here, has strong conviction in BRICS’ potential to counterbalance Western powers’ dominance by challenging their unilateral decision-making and promoting a more balanced global landscape,” she was quoted as saying.

Muchinguri-Kashiri’s remarks come less than two weeks after Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced his government’s intention to join BRICS in an interview with TASS on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

President Mnangagwa said he had discussed the move with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during bilateral talks on June 7, when both leaders also agreed to intensify cooperation between Moscow and Harare.

BRICS was founded in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India, and China, with South Africa joining in 2011. The group expanded this year when Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates became full members. Despite the expansion, the group has opted to keep its original name.

Several other countries have also officially signaled their intention to join the organization. On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that one of the key criteria for Moscow to welcome new members is that any country seeking to join the BRICS group refrain from participating in illegal unilateral sanctions.

Zimbabwe, under US and European Union sanctions for more than two decades, has been exploring ways to diversify its economy and tackle several challenges, including food insecurity. The landlocked country declared a national state of disaster in April, with President Mnangagwa stating that severe droughts would leave more than 2.7 million people without food this year. Zimbabwe was among six African states that received 25,000 tons of humanitarian wheat from Russia in February as part of Moscow’s commitment to assisting food-insecure countries.

African leader praises Russian aid in struggle for independence African leader praises Russian aid in struggle for independence

On Monday, Harare’s defense minister described BRICS as a group that is founded on the principle of non-alignment, which has not only “overcome ideological limitations,” but also promotes economic growth based on mutual respect.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said the bloc was leading the world away from a unipolar era, of which both Russia and Zimbabwe are victims, and toward a multipolar future. BRICS “fully supports our joint plea for universal freedom for all nations and the cooperation of like-minded nations to advance national development agendas,” she stated. (RT)