JAPAN and Zimbabwe yesterday sealed vital economic agreements with the Asian giant’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately making an undertaking to fund local road infrastructure development. Speaking after meeting President Mugabe at his offices here yesterday, PM Abe said by signing the agreements, the two leaders were committing themselves to a “guide post for cooperation in broader areas going forward”
“More specifically, we will render our cooperation for the improvement and development of road infrastructure in Zimbabwe’s northsouth corridor,” he said. “It is a great pleasure for me that I state our further cooperation after our last year’s grant aid ($15 million), the first of its kind in 15 years. Japan established diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe in 1980, the year of independence of Zimbabwe, a country with abundant resources and great nature, and has built friendly relationship ever since.”
Zimbabwean Ambassador to Japan Titus AbuBasutu and Japanese ambassador in the country Mr Yoshi Hiraishi also signed agreements made on the “grant aid cooperation on socioeconomic development plan”. PM Abe, who described President Mugabe as a “revered doyen”, said his country would also chip in and assist Zimbabwe in dealing with the effects of the El Ninoinduced drought that has left more than four million people in need of food aid. The cooperation agreements strengthen the Government’s Look East Policy as Zimbabwe is also implementing various deals sealed with China in the past two years. The deals cover key economic enablers identified under ZimAsset, the country’s economic blueprint.
PM Abe also enlisted the services of President Mugabe in his country’s preparation for the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) IV to be held in Kenya in August. “We will have a close consultation with Zimbabwe on how we can assist to best respond to the local needs to counter severe food shortages that have resulted from drought,” he said. “While TICAD IV is going to be held for the first time in Africa, President Mugabe graciously agreed to attend the meeting to ensure the conference (is a) success. At the meeting, while gaining the cooperation of the President himself, I am determined to support strongly the African Development Agenda (2063) through demonstrating a concrete contribution distinctive of Japan such as high level of technology and human resource development while engaging the business community and civil society.”
President Mugabe said Zimbabwe’s doors were open to investment and special conditions would be granted to investors in special economic zones. He said: “Special conditions are also extended in our special economic zones and Japanese business people are invited to take advantage of this. It is true that enduring relations are cemented by robust exchanges of goods and services. On the investment front, I am inviting Japanese companies to invest heavily in Zimbabwe, which carries the promise of handsome returns for the investor. We have abundant opportunities for investors and they should look forward to a mutually rewarding relationship with us.” President Mugabe said the bilateral engagement he had with PM Abe was “comprehensive, forward looking and fruitful” as it focused on economic, scientific and cultural cooperation. “I also briefed him on opportunities for cooperation and business in Zimbabwe’s health, education, mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. We also had time to review regional and global developments and share information of mutual interest,” he said. He said while Zimbabwe was a beneficiary of humanitarian aid from Japan, time had come for the two countries to enhance their relationship with projects that enrich both parties. President Mugabe said the country needed food aid to deal with El Ninoinduced drought and that it had already made an appeal to the international community. “Currently Zimbabwe, in fact, the Southern African region, is suffering the effects of an El Nino drought,” he said. “
My Government has taken the appeal for drought relief to the international community including Japan and I am confident that as Japan has always done, it will come to our aid.” Earlier on, President Mugabe paid a State call on their Majesties the Emperor of Japan, Akihito and Empress Michiko. The President was accompanied by the First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe, during the event which was held at the Imperial Palace. President Mugabe also had closed door meetings with representatives of four companies that have plans to invest in Zimbabwe.