Japan Pledges $14bn in Aid to Africa over 5 Years

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japan said on Saturday it would give $14 billion in aid to Africa over the next five years, as Tokyo scrambles to grab a share of resources and the potentially vast marketplace on offer.

Around half of the money will be targeted at infrastructure development, with Tokyo seeking to match its desire to export transport systems and power grids with the gaping needs of the continent.

Japan’s overseas development aid “will be about 1.4 trillion yen ($14 billion)” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the start of a three-day conference in Tokyo involving the leaders of more then 40 African countries, reports AFP.

Including this aid, “Japan will offer up to 3.2 trillion yen in support to Africa’s growth via public and private sector investment”, he said.

Japanese firms are keen to develop their presence in Africa’s growing market, and the country as a whole needs access to the resources the continent harbours.

Despite relatively long-standing connections, Japan’s importance to Africa has slipped behind that of China, whose more aggressive approach has given it five times the trading volume and eight times the direct investment.

The five-yearly Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), a get-together of political leaders from across Africa, is Japan’s two decade old effort to boost links.

Ahead of this year’s forum, Japanese officials stressed that Tokyo wants to transform its relationship with Africa from that of donor-recipient to a business partnership.

That theme was taken up by Abe.

“What Africa needs now is private-sector investment. ‘PPP’, or ‘public-private partnership’, leverages that investment,” Abe told delegates.

Tokyo’s commitment to Africa differed from that of other nations, Abe said, in remarks that appeared to have been a reference to China.

Beijing is criticised in some corners for what is sometimes seen as prosecuting little more than a resources grab and for not linking investment with demands for improved human rights or more transparent governance in recipient countries.

“Japan has aimed to create a ‘true partnership’ with Africa over the entire course of our relations,” Abe said.

The focus on shifting the relationship was welcomed by delegates, with South African President Jacob Zuma saying the continent’s economy had to develop.http://www.thisdaylive.com

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