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Mugabe speaks out of step in Japan

YOKOHAMA — President Robert Mugabe spoke out of step with the changing dynamics between Africa and Japan at the fifth Tokyo International Conference on Development (Ticad), which opened in the Japanese port city of Yokohama yesterday.

From Itai Masuku in Japan

He stopped short of berating the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his country’s failure to lend support to Zimbabwe following the disputed elections between 2000 and 2008.

The conference, which seeks to open high-level dialogue between African leaders and their partners and mobilise support for African-owned development initiatives, started on a high note as host, Premier Shinzo Abe announced a staggering 3,2 trillion Yen (US$32 billion) Japanese package.

This was the largest by any single or multilateral donor ever, in aid and foreign direct investment for Africa.

Of this global amount, to be disbursed over five years, US$14 billion will be in the form of overseas development assistance, while US$16 billion is expected in the form of foreign direct investment.

This signals a marked increase in Japan’s intervention towards boosting economic growth on the continent, where about 650 billion yen (US$6,5 billion) will be channelled towards infrastructure investment.

The package, which is an extension of the Japanese premier’s brand of economics, has among some of its targets fostering
30 000 “business-savvy individuals” on the continent, emphasising peace and stability as the foundation of development and forging true partnerships with Africa.

“Japan has maintained its faith in the future of Africa. In the 1990s when the international community had almost forgotten Africa amidst the post-Cold War circumstances, Japan alone believed in the development of Africa, and thereby launched the Ticad process,” Abe reminded 39 African heads of state and almost 3 000 delegates from 53 countries.

In spite of a clear indication that Japan is increasingly asserting its own presence on the African continent instead of playing second fiddle to the United States and Europe, Mugabe in a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, decried the Japanese government for reducing its assistance to Zimbabwe, since the country became a pariah state after the controversial elections and was slapped with international sanctions by the United States and the European Union.

In contributions by heads of state during further deliberations, Mugabe also bashed Japan for not supporting the transfer of technology beyond a 30% threshold in the past in the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries joint venture.

“That resistance, please throw away and be ready to impart technology, be ready to assist us in industrialising our economy and also in building our economies to levels that you now see in the world of Malaysia, Singapore, etc,” Mugabe said.

He went on to slam European American companies for being the biggest culprits during and after colonialism when it came of transferring technology and skills to Africans.

“Those we have related to happen to be our erstwhile colonisers, Europe especially have not wanted to see us elevate ourselves by way of beneficiating our goods, our primary goods. And so as we look forward to greater interaction with Japanese companies, I would want us to impart to them this one idea that as countries interact with us, do so as partners who want to see us develop in the same way as they have done and therefore not just a question of our being suppliers of raw materials.”

However, the veteran politician, flanked in the meeting with Abe by Foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and CIO director general Happyton Bonyongwe, was later conciliatory, expressing hope to further develop bilateral relationships with Japan. He said he hoped Japanese firms would participate in projects in Zimbabwe in the identified areas as infrastructure development, agriculture and mining.

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