Japan plans big development assistance for Africa

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.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. AP file photo

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.

Categories: Business, Development

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