Japan announces $30 billion investment in Africa

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Saturday that Japan will mobilize a total of $30 billion in private- and public-sector funds to invest in Africa over three years to boost infrastructure building in the resource-rich continent.

“This is an investment for the growth of both Japan and Africa,” Abe said, as he unveiled his country’s fresh financial assistance for Africa at a Japan-led African development conference that convened in the Kenyan capital Nairobi the same day. It is the first time the gathering, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, has been held outside Japan.

With an eye to strengthening the region’s potential in the fields of manufacturing and health care, Abe said in a keynote speech at the start of the two-day meeting that Japan will “empower 10 million people (to work toward an) Africa which has high-quality (economic and social infrastructure) and is strong and stable.”

Japan is banking on its strengths in quality infrastructure development and training of human resources to promote Japanese businesses there, an apparent counterpoint to China’s expanding influence in Africa.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

In recent years, Beijing has been offering its own massive aid packages to the region.

To bolster Japan’s economic ties with the fast-growing continent, Abe announced that a public-private sector economic forum will be set up. Under the framework, Japanese ministers and top business leaders will visit Africa once every three years.

“Japan will nurture 20,000 experts and policymakers to tackle infectious diseases in three years,” Abe also said, referring to the region’s fight against diseases, such as the outbreak of Ebola.

Regarding security in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, Abe made clear Japan’s commitment to it, saying, “What connects Asia and Africa is the sea.”

“Japan will nurture, without any pressure, (the area covering Asia to Africa) into a place that puts importance on the rule of law and a market economy,” he said, urging Africa to work with Japan to see that the rules-based order will prevail in the seas.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, speaks during the opening of Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 © AP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, speaks during the opening of Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 © AP

For Japan, Africa is vital, economically and politically, given the region’s vast market and clout in the United Nations, Japanese officials say. There are over 50 countries in Africa, making up a large voting bloc in the world body.

Tokyo aims to gain support from African countries in its bid to be a permanent member of the Security Council, while South Africa, one of the largest economies in Africa, is also seeking a permanent seat on the council.

“Security Council reforms are the common goal for Japan and Africa,” Abe said.

The TICAD summit is being attended by African leaders, heads of major international donors like the World Bank, and business leaders. The development conference has been held five times previously since 1993, all in Japan.

In Saturday’s TICAD session, Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president and current African Union chief, said the region’s prosperity hinges on peace and stability, and called for Japan’s contribution in a counterterrorism fund to be created by the African Union.

Security is a major issue facing the region, partly due to terrorism, and one of the areas of cooperation for Japan and Africa.

In Nairobi on Friday, about 100 companies and groups took part in an exhibition aimed at helping Japanese firms expand into Africa. Its organizer, the Japan External Trade Organization, said it was one of the largest such events the government-affiliated business promotion body has held in Africa.

JETRO says approximately 400 Japanese firms operate in Africa.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review