The Sunday Mail
Diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and Japan have been flourishing for the past 38 years. Over the years, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has bankrolled a number of local developmental projects. It is, however, believed that there is scope to deepen the relations. Our reporter Sharon Munjenjema last week spoke to Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Toshiyuki Iwado on the sidelines of a cocktail to commemorate the enthronement of the new Japanese Emperor, Prince Naruhito.
Japanese Emperor Akihito recently abdicated his throne, and his son becomes the 126th Emperor of Japan.
Q: What would you say is the current state of relations between Japan and Zimbabwe?
A: Relations between Zimbabwe and Japan have not been bad; we are enjoying, it’s been good and friendly relations since independence.
As a matter of fact, the embassy here in Zimbabwe established and opened in 1981 just after independence.
And the following year, the Zimbabwean Embassy in Tokyo also opened.
So, of course, there have been ups and downs because of certain political and economic situations.
Q: What is your take on the current reforms being implemented by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration?
A: From the beginning of his term, President Mnangagwa talked about a very important thing, which is political, economic and social reform.
I think that this country needs to reform in many areas.
Given the natural resources and rich human resources, there is need for a good system to make those talented people show their abilities. Look around, it is often talked about that the informal sector is huge, but from my perspective, if the informal sector is so active, it means that there are so many Zimbabweans with talent to run businesses.
Why do they stay in the informal sector?
Ask them why they can’t tap into the formal sector, it is because there are too many rules and regulations.
I think that’s why they just stay in the informal sector.
I am not one to teach how things should be done, but my sense is: make the rules and regulations relaxed for businesses to prosper and let those talented people thrive.
Q: There has been a raft of ease of doing business reforms that have been put forward by Government. What do you think of them?
A: My personal observation is that there are not so quick, but I am not disappointed because of that because in any democratic country, even Japan, the reform is not so easy and not quick.
No government can do everything all at once.
So from that perspective I am not so disappointed. For example, the fiscal discipline, I believe they are doing very well and the monetary policy as well.
That is necessary.
There is some fine-tuning (that needs to be done) so that the general public accepts the system (new monetary policy on interbank market).
In order for the people to accept that system, probably Government needs to deal with the workable inter-banking system.
Without making the inter-banking system work, it will be difficult for the individual and the businesspeople to rely on the new system. They will go to the black market and try to get foreign currency, (where) the exchange rate is very high, and that will be reflected in the price.
That is the kind of cycle the people are suffering. The businesspeople are suffering from that. I don’t know how that can be fixed, but at least try to make the inter-banking system work so that the general public, including the private sector, accept it.
More than that, my real feeling is that try to tackle the corruption, as the President mentioned.
Q: Which areas of possible investment do you see in Zimbabwe which Japanese firms would be interested in investing in?
Also, has there been any specific investors in Japan that have shown their interest?
A: I do not want to single out one, there are many. In February, we had the Japanese business mission and they explored many areas – mining, agriculture and energy.
Many Japanese companies are competing (to invest here) and I cannot mention their names, but the point is, many times I am asked the same question, and my answer is ask your local companies.
If they are happy with the working environment in Zimbabwe, why wouldn’t the Japanese companies want to invest?
If they are suffering, and I think they are suffering, then it is very difficult for investment to come to this country.
Because once they invest here they will suffer the same. So my answer to that question is not sector-specific but system-specific. There needs to be reforms, reforms, reforms. This country has huge potential, it has rich national resources and talented people. Something needs to be done to exploit those natural resources.