In strategy shift, Japan might ask China to join road-building project in West Africa

Kyodo

In a change of strategy, Japan might ask China to join a Tokyo-led infrastructure development project in Africa instead of competing to offer economic assistance to the continent, government sources say.

Tokyo is leaning toward joint development to add impetus to the recent upswing in bilateral ties with China, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to visit in October.

The aim of the project is to build roads to link several West African nations. Japan intends to hold a meeting to discuss its proposal before Abe visits China, the sources said Sunday.

Tokyo has pledged more than ¥35 billion ($315 million) in loans and grants for the project, which envisions 4,000 km of new roads being constructed to connect countries including Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

Japan and China have been throwing economic assistance at Africa to expand economic opportunities in the resource-rich continent. Beijing, in particular, is pushing its “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative aimed at more closely connecting countries along the ancient Silk Road.

Bilateral relations have been improving recently. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Japan in May, becoming the highest-ranking Chinese official to do so in seven years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to make his first visit to Japan in June next year since assuming his post.