Japan committed to investment, development in Africa

Japan committed to investment, development in Africa

Tom Abke

Japan’s recent record of development aid to Africa gels with the objectives of the Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a development and cooperation initiative for Africa envisioned several years ago by the leaders of Japan and India.

From April 3, 2017, through February 21, 2018, Japan pledged or dispensed 50 grants of development assistance to African countries for a total of over half a billion U.S. dollars, according to data supplied by the Official Development Assistance program of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Infrastructure grants were among the largest, including U.S. $18 million for a geothermal power system in Ethiopia, U.S. $20 million for the expansion and upgrade of a college of education in Malawi, U.S. $30 million for the rehabilitation of an irrigation system in Madagascar and U.S. $39 million to upgrade health centers to hospitals in Zambia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Japan’s commitment to Africa during a February 28, 2018, talk with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Ramaphosa’s inauguration. Abe told Ramaphosa that Japan will continue to “steadily implement its commitment at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) on the measures to invest for the future of Africa,” according to a statement from MOFA. (Pictured: Then-South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo.)

TICAD VI is a program centered on “developing quality infrastructure, building resilient health systems and laying the foundations for peace and stability,” as described by MOFA, amounting to about U.S. $30 billion under public-private partnership from 2016 through 2018. TICAD VII is scheduled in early 2019 in Yokohama, Japan.

“Japan is trying to grow its own influence and reach vis-à-vis China,” Asia analyst Harry Sa told FORUM. Sa is a senior analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“But this extends beyond just mere geopolitical rivalry. It is interested in upholding a rules-based order, international law and international norms,” Sa said.

Analysts have described AAGC as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an international development strategy launched by the Chinese government that has extended into Africa by facilitating such projects as the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway in Kenya, according to Reuters.

Conceived in November 2016 by Abe and Indian President Narendra Modi, the AAGC gives priority to Afrıca-based development projects in health and pharmaceuticals, agriculture and agroprocessing, disaster management and skill enhancement, according to its 2017 Vision Statement.

The statement praises TICAD for improving social and economic conditions in Africa through aid grants and technical assistance, indicating that its continuation will coalesce with AAGC’s implementation, as Japan and India work together, along with other partners.

“The demand for development, connectivity and infrastructure in Africa is far too large for China or the BRI to shoulder alone,” Sa said. “Even with a fully developed AAGC, the two initiatives will likely be insufficient. In other words, the more the merrier. Also, with the AAGC, the BRI won’t be the only game in town. The two initiatives will have to compete with one another, which could drive down prices or increase the level of quality of development.”

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.