President Mugabe’s official working visit to Japan will further revive economic co-operation between Zimbabwe and the Asian economic giant which became “low-toned” after the former was hit by economic sanctions by Western countries, Japanese officials have said.
Japan said the sanctions-induced economic hardships saw a number of Japanese companies moving out of Zimbabwe, but it was now time to restore the economic co-operation that existed since 1980.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited President Mugabe to Toyko to discuss investment issues as well United Nations Security Council reforms.
“After the economic deterioration in Zimbabwe that erupted since 2000 most Japanese companies have been forced to evacuate from Zimbabwe, and consequently the economic co-operation activities between both governments have become low-toned inevitably except humanitarian aid,” the Japanese Embassy in Zimbabwe said in a statement.
“The government of Japan sincerely welcomes the visit of the President and his spouse (Dr Grace Mugabe), and hopes that this visit will further strengthen the friendly relations between Japan and the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
Japan said relations between the two countries since the 1980s should continue with the nations recognising each other’s sovereignty.
“Japan has never imposed either any sanctions or other restrictive measures on Zimbabwe,” the embassy said.
“Rather, Japan has so far continued to extend various kinds of assistance to Zimbabwe since its independence. As for the technical co-operation, for instance, Japan has been keeping dispatching many JICA (Japan International Co-operation Agency) experts and Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers to Zimbabwe, while receiving many Zimbabwean trainees in Japan.”
The embassy said previous meetings between Premier Abe and President Mugabe in 2013 and 2015 had set the tone for the full restoration of bilateral relations between the two countries.
“Especially in the economic co-operation between both countries, Prime Minister Abe announced at the TICAD V Summit in Yokohama that Japan has decided to conduct a new preparatory survey concerning irrigation improvement and plans to dispatch advisors for aid co-ordination, for the full-scale resumption of bilateral economic cooperation,” the embassy said.
“On the basis of this announcement, the government of Japan has decided to extend grant aid for the “Project for Irrigation Development for Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme” worth US$15 million, to Zimbabwe in November 2015.
“This was indeed the historical moment for revitalisation of the bilateral relationship as this grant aid was really the first Japanese full-scale grant assistance to the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe in 15 years since 2000.
“The government of Japan has steadily committed to be engaged in the development of Zimbabwe.”
The embassy said in 2014, Zimbabwe exported goods worth $146 million to Japan with $333 million being recorded as imports from the Asian economic giant.
President Mugabe’s visit is expected to elaborate Government’s Look East Policy and PM Abe also wants a robust discussion with the President on the UNSC reforms.
Japan belongs to the Group of Four (G4), which has Germany, India and Brazil — countries which have mutually supported one another’s bids for permanent seats in the Security Council.
The G4 members have proposed reform in the UN Security Council to include an additional six permanent seats, four going to them and two reserved for African cou- ntries.
Only five nations — China, Russia, France, Britain and the United States — have permanent seats and veto powers, which enable them to prevent the adoption of any “substantive” draft Council resolution, regardless of the level of international support for the draft.
President Mugabe has always made a strong pitch for the UN Security Council reform saying the organisation had become a forum where “some are giants”, while the rest have been “made dwarfs”.
After their meeting, PM Abe is expected to host a dinner for President Mugabe.
President Mugabe is also expected to make a State call on their Majesties the Emperor of Japan, Akihito and the Empress Michiko.
The couple will also host a court luncheon for the President and the First Lady.