Japan resumes its wooing of Africa, a counter to China’s efforts
Japan, which began developmental programmes in the 1990s, has been eclipsed in recent years by China, now Africa’s leading trade partner.Pledge to invest US$30 billion on the continent includes a focus on training Africans to run their economy.
Japan will help Africa “urgently deal with issues such as … unfair and opaque development finance”, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Tunisia last weekend.
Observers considered that an apparent swipe at China’s lending practices, which Japan and other Group of 7 members have criticised as burdening countries with “debt traps”.
In fact, before China became a major player in Africa, Japan had for decades pumped billions of dollars into the building of roads, power plants and ports on the continent.
Celine Pajon, the head of Japan research at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, said that Japan set its development lending apart from China’s by insisting on the quality of aid, rather than quantity. Pajon said that in this time of multiple crises, Japan was going back to basics in its partnership with Africa. The pandemic, Pajon said, highlighted a core concept of Tokyo’s development assistance policy – human security and human-centred development – allowing Japan to communicate its long-time commitment to health governance. “The war in Ukraine and the ineffectiveness of the United Nations revived a long-term project of Japan: to reform the UN Security Council to become a permanent member and offer two seats for Africa,” Pajon said. Japan was among five countries elected in June to hold a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2023 and 2024. Kishida told TICAD that Japan would use its place on the UN Security Council to push for an African seat on the council. Japan was also stepping up investments in decarbonisation and green energy, Pajon said, as well as in promising African start-ups – one way to boost private contributions to the continent.
- Read the full story in the South China Morning Post.