Shinzo Abe

Japan to give US$14 billion in aid to Africa

Tokyo tries to muscle in on Chinese presence as it pledges different approach to continent

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 June, 2013, 3:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am


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Japan said yesterday that it would give US$14 billion in aid to Africa over five years, as Tokyo scrambles to grab resources and market share at a time of increased Chinese interest in the continent.

Around half of the money will be earmarked for infrastructure development, with Japan seeking to match its manufacturers' desire to export transport systems and power grids with Africa's huge needs.

"[Japan's overseas development aid] will be about 1.4 trillion yen [HK$107.8 billion]", Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a three-day conference in Tokyo involving the leaders of more then 40 African countries.

"[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.

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.

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 often criticised for what is sometimes seen as little more than a resources grab and for not linking investment with improved human rights or more transparent governance.

"Africa's abundant natural resources provide important business opportunities for the resource-poor Japan. But Japan [will] not explore and dig resources simply to bring them to Japan," Abe said. "We will support Africa so that African natural resources will lead to African economic growth."

Abe will hold individual meetings with 40 African leaders.

The focus on private investment was welcomed by delegates, with South African President Jacob Zuma saying the continent's economy had to develop.

"Africa must move from a path driven by commodities export to one led by industrialisation and diversification," he said.