Auxilia Katongomara, Business Reporter
MORE Japanese are set to invest in Zimbabwe in response to the on-going economic reform process with Tokyo and Harare pushing for improved bilateral relations.
Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Toshiyuki Iwado, said trade between the two countries was low as a few Japanese companies were operating in Zimbabwe.
In an interview at the Japanese stand during the just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) Amb Iwado expressed concern over low Japanese investor presence in the country but said efforts were underway to lure more companies to come to Zimbabwe.
“Talking of Japanese companies’ presence in Zimbabwe, there are only two companies currently operating in Zimbabwe.
“One is Astra Paints and the other one is Toyota. We used to have almost 30 Japanese companies’ offices in Harare only. This means we are really, really in a bad situation now. In other words we have a lot of potential and room to grow,” said Amb Iwado.
He said the embassy was pushing Japanese companies to come to Zimbabwe to tap into the vast business opportunities across sectors.
“One of the concrete examples is that in February this year, we had the Japanese business mission to Zimbabwe, organised by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the industries in South Africa and JETRO-which is a government affiliated body in charge of promoting investment and trade. So the business mission visited Zimbabwe and had a courtesy call to your President (Mnangagwa) and had lots of meetings with ministers,” said the Ambassador.
“They also visited and exchanged views with the private sector companies. So, now we are waiting for their follow-up. There has been some follow-up action from some of the companies but we need to see more.”
Amb Iwado said only two Japanese companies showcased their products at this year’s trade fair – Fujifilm and Astra Paints.
“In this trade fair, only two Japanese companies have small space on the table here. One is Fujifilm and the other is Astra Paints, which has a manufacturing facility in Harare. Kansai Paint, a Japanese paint manufacturing company is the father or mother of Astra Paints. Fujifilm used to be camera film maker only but now they are investing more and more in the health sector.
“It is one of the top companies in the world in that sector,” he said.
“So, even though our presence here is very weak, I hope that follow-up from the strong Japanese companies and JETRO will make the business relationship much bigger. That is our expectation.”
Amb Iwado, however, urged the country to expedite its reform processes in order to compete with other African countries saying the prevailing economic environment was not yet very conducive.
“It is very easy to talk about expectation but to be frank the business environment is not really good enough. And I am not talking only about business environment in Zimbabwe because many of Japanese companies and probably companies from other countries are not only looking at Zimbabwe but they the looking at the African continent,” he said.
“But in the context of Zimbabwe, they are comparing with the business environment of neighbouring countries and beyond. So, what I am saying is if we are going to approach the business relationship between Japan and Zimbabwe, I hope that Zimbabwe can make the business environment more competitive than the neighbouring countries. That is my view.”
The new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa is already seized with implementing a string of reforms meant to improve the ease of doing business chief among them being legislative realignments, political and economic dialogue towards robust transformation under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).