As China boosts influence, Japan eyes aid for 60 Africa infrastructure projects


The Japanese government plans to allocate development assistance for some 60 projects in African countries, centering on infrastructure development but also covering fields as diverse as agriculture and health care, a government source said Thursday.

The plan has been formulated in preparation for the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which Japan co-sponsors with the United Nations and the African Union, scheduled to be held in Nairobi in August. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce the assistance at TICAD, the source said.

The commitment is partly to counter China, which in recent years has stepped up its presence in the continent with massive aid packages, while also aimed at gaining support from African countries for Japan’s bid to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the source said.

According to the source, Tokyo considers Africa the world’s last major growth market and aims to offer high-quality, safety-focused infrastructure technology as an alternative to China’s.

The government decided in July to focus on development in three regions of Africa — areas surrounding Kenya’s Mombasa port and Nacala port in northern Mozambique, as well as Cote d’Ivoire and surrounding West African nations.

Funding has been earmarked for the about 60 projects in all, many involving infrastructure including ports and road networks. The total amount of assistance will be worked out later, though.

The projects also include the development of natural gas extraction in Mozambique and an urban transport network for Nairobi.

A model project will be launched in Zambia to distribute medical testing equipment in light of the difficulties of dealing with infectious diseases such as the Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus.

An Africa-wide exchange student program with Japan and a microloan system to channel funds to capital-strapped farmers are also on the table, the source said.

Tokyo will now set about negotiating the scale of the assistance with each recipient country, according to the source.

The sixth TICAD, scheduled to run over Aug. 27 and 28, will be the first to be held within Africa. It has previously been held in Japan every five years since 1993, but will now be held every three years.

  • Liars N. Fools

    The more the merrier. I am sure the African companies will benefit from the investment competition between Japan and China. Win-win-win.

  • GBR48

    Aid packages are good things. The medical stuff, microloans for farmers, healthcare support. Every 1st world nation has a duty to help those in dire need and reduce poverty and illness in these countries.

    Not convinced about ‘buying influence’ in a beauty contest with the Chinese, paying for major infrastructure projects or the sort of commercial resource exploitation that would normally be done by multinational corporates, particularly when we need to turn away from fossil fuels and nuclear towards renewables.

    Africa has a lot of sun and Japan has expertise in solar panels, yet the other day there were reports of Panasonic reducing solar cell manufacture due to falling demand. As Japan rolls the dice by turning on the nuclear power stations at home, rather than funding renewables, it is planning on paying out public funds to help African nations develop a non-nuclear, non-renewable energy strategy?

    It is impossible to justify projects beyond healthcare and welfare aid when there are Japanese people in need and the state is more in debt than any other. Specifically projects where the aid is simply a bribe to get African nations to buy Japanese, the aid going back to Japan Inc. as a hidden government subsidy if Japanese corporates get the contracts.

    I’m not being mean – if countries are suffering, help them, but whilst any of your own citizens lack for the basics, from the homeless living in parks and along river banks, to kids going to school hungry because of welfare shortfalls, playing Santa to third world countries is robbing your own poorest citizens for glory on the world stage. That is immoral and unethical.

    This doesn’t just apply to Japan. All first world governments should be forced to face their own shortcomings at home before they get to be a sugar daddy abroad, beyond basic assistance. There’s something to write into constitutions, forcing governments to deal with their domestic issues effectively as a prerequisite for action in other spheres.

    The other issue is solvency. Is it better to be loved or to be solvent? Japan’s debt mountain isn’t getting any smaller, and interest rates may not stay low forever. It is no different from having a huge lump of debt on a credit card. You don’t just keep on spending. Everyone says that Japan is special and that it isn’t really that serious. Well fine. Wave the magic wand, make it reset to zero without any collateral fiscal damage and carry on. Sorted. Otherwise, behave accordingly and start acting like the country with the biggest debt, a stuttering economy and an ageing workforce. And buzzword economic programmes only count if they work.

    If Japan wants to be on the security council, it may have to be in a position to follow through on resolutions, and that goes much further than Abe’s current attempts to change the pacifist constitution. Maybe Japan can plead special circumstances and avoid getting a nuke, given non-proliferation treaties, but it isn’t called a ‘security council’ for dishing out candy.

    So by all means aid those in desperate need in the world’s poorest countries. That is good. But any government planning on building expressways in distant lands should at least have the decency to send a government minister to explain the justification for that to the homeless in Ueno Park, or on the streets of London and LA.

    The international politics version of ‘You don’t get to go out and play until you have tidied your room’.