, Japan, Jun 1 – Japan is to give $14 billion in aid to Africa over the next five years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday, as Tokyo seeks a slice of the potentially vast marketplace.
“The ODA (overseas development aid) will be about 1.4 trillion yen ($14 billion)” Abe said at the start of a three-day, five-yearly conference in Tokyo, with leaders of more then 40 African countries present.
Including this aid, “Japan will offer up to 3.2 trillion yen 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 some of 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 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 have been stressing that Tokyo wants to transform its relationship with Africa from that of donor-recipient to a business partnership.
“What Africa needs now is private-sector investment. ‘PPP’, or ‘public-private partnership’, leverages that investment,” Abe told delegates, including more than 40 heads of state or government.
In addition to the 3.2 trillion yen global figure, Japan is also readying other public and private resources of around 16 billion dollars and a up to 2 billion dollars of trade insurance, Abe said.
Abe also said Japan will invite 1,000 students over five years to Japan to study in universities and gain experience as interns at Japanese companies.
He said Japan would furthermore work to find jobs for 30,000 people in Africa.
Japan Inc. sees Africa as an opportunity for expansion at a time that the domestic market is contracting and stultifying because of a population that is ageing and forecast to shrink.
Abe has pledged to turn Japan’s economy around after two decades of disappointing performance and has stressed the need for increased trade.
Last month he pledged to travel the world to promote Japanese road, rail and power-grid technology in a bid to treble infrastructure exports to 30 trillion yen a year by 2020.
The often under-developed infrastructure in large parts of Africa offer a potential opportunity to help achieve that goal.