Japan a new aid power in Zimbabwe, are citizens paying attention?

Japan’s Abe welcomes ‘iconic’ Mugabe in Tokyo [March 2016]

Few infrastructure deals and a solid reaffirmation that Mugabe was an “iconic” leader and the “most revered patriarch of Africa” by the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put Mugabe on a road trip singing reforms to the United Nations Security Council, a cause which had nothing to do with Zimbabwe’s priorities then.

Many have argued that the Japanese influence was getting to his head given that the push for UNSC reforms has been one of Japan’s main calls for since the 1990s.

From this and other instances it is known that “assistance” in all its forms can be a key governance factor in recipient countries. Just like Mugabe, Prime Minister Abe is no longer leading his country however their successors seem to be continuing from what their predecessors have left.

The New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has significantly improved its aid commitments to Zimbabwe and the recipient country’s president seems content with the assistance.

This fresh aid drive has catapulted the new Japanese Ambassador H.E. Mr Satoshi Tanaka to the forefront of west dominated development sector with massive and persistent projects and direct donations.


A glimpse of Japanese aid commitments and projects of 2021 shows a picture of a new “donor” power. Japan is now among the most active foreign missions providing aid albeit through UN Agencies, international and local NGOs.

School classroom blocks built by the assistance from the people of Japan. March 2021 Photos by MeDRA
  • February 16, Japan decided to extend Emergency Grant Aid of 7.5 million US dollars in response to food crises in Madagascar and Zimbabwe. Most (4.5 Million) of which was channeled towards Zimbabwe.
  • February 23, Japan committed 8.6 million to support vulnerable people most affected by humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.
  • March 9, Japan donated 20,000 metric tonnes of maize to the Government of Zimbabwe’s Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy (FDMS) through the World Food Programme.
  • On the 17th and 18th of March, the Japanese Ambassador H.E. Mr Satoshi Tanaka presided the signing ceremony of four new Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security (GGP) projects namely, 1) The US$ 644,651 Project for Mine Clearance in Mashonaland Central Province to be carried out by an international NGO, The HALO Trust. 2) The US$ 90,909 Project for Construction of Multipurpose Skill Training Centre for Orphans and Vulnerable Youth in Harare, the project will be implemented by a local NGO, Dzikwa Trust Fund. 3) The US$ 90,877Project for Construction of Educational Facility and Borehole for HIV Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Harare, which will be implemented by ChiedzaChild Care Centre, a local NGO. 4) The US$ 90,905Project for Construction of School Buildings at Muvande Primary School in Seke District, which is to be implemented by a local NGO, NhakaFoundation.
  • In the same month the embassy was celebrating the completion of another GGP project “The USD 88,616 Project for Improvement of the Educational Environment at Nyarutombo Primary School in Mbire District”
  • April 16 Japan further supports COVID-19 response in Zimbabwe with a million dollars provided to UNICEF Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 response through responsive and preventive care interventions to vulnerable children and women across multiple sectors including health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, GBV and child protection and education.
  • On the same day The Government of Japan announced the contribution of US$ 1.25 million through the World Food Programme (WFP) to support vulnerable, food insecure communities in Zimbabwe that have been severely impacted by climate shocks and COVID-19.
  • April 2 – The Government of Japan and the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency signed a US$ 1.3 million partnership grant in a project that will help save the lives of pregnant women in Zimbabwe.

It is a known fact that no aid is altruist, donor countries interests looms larger than any other factor. In this context some have long argued that it must not be called aid after all because benefits go both ways, it must rather be called a transaction or investment.

Japan may claim that its assistance is founded on the core principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states, realistically it is known that these indirect overtures have high returns for Japan at the geopolitical level for example countering China’s influence in the African region, neutralizing North Korea’s network of allies through aid and creating a new network of allies in a promising continent.

All aid moves have to be scrutinised, monitored and evaluated. Some aid projects have negative net benefits, the flow of aid from Tokyo or rather Tokyo’s investment in Zimbabwe has to be subjected to the scrutiny and monitoring we often do on commercial projects.

What we have to worry more about the Japanese aid is it’s lack of publicity available demands for good governance and other internationally encouraged standards.

We know that Japan’s then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2019 pressed Mnanganwa on economic reforms and for advancements in democratic principles, with lack of reforms and continued deterioration of the democratic environment in Zimbabwe, Japan’s priorities are clear, they include neither economic reform not the democratization of the country.

Now that we know that Japan is here we have to put our attention to monitoring it’s activities because the last time the Zimbabwean delegation was in Tokyo they seem unorganised and not ready to negotiate anything worthwhile as evidenced by the picture they left in our memories. ⬇️

Zimbabwean delegation seen here with no notebooks whilst meeting the Japanese delegates alongside the TICAD 7 in 2019

The massage is clear, we are on our own, we have to monitor these foreign gifts on our own because the future if the country is at stake.

About Author /

[ Development Practitioner • IR Postgraduate Student • African • Queer • Anti-Poverty ]

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