Why Is Japan Investing In Zimbabwe And What Does N. Korea Have To Do With It?

On June 14, 2016, Zimbabwe and Japan signed a major automobile industry trade deal to ship 10,000 Japanese tractors to Harare and train 40 Zimbabweans in Japanese automobile manufacturing techniques.

This deal mirrors similar contracts signed by China, Zimbabwe’s principal Asian partner, and reaffirms Japan’s desire to compete with China for economic influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Japan’s investment in Zimbabwe’s automobile industry is the latest step towards stronger ties between Tokyo and Harare. In late March, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe signed a $5.8 million US deal to finance road construction on Zimbabwe’s resource-rich north-south corridor.

Even though Japan risks criticism from Western powers who have isolated the Mugabe regime with sanctions, Abe’s outreach to Zimbabwe strategically benefits Japan in two main ways.