Japan Pledges To Boost Trade With Africa

On Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced his country’s plan to invest $30 billion in Africa over the next three years. At the opening of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Abe told attendees that Japan will invest $10 billion on infrastructure development in Africa. The investment, geared for urban transport systems, electrical power, roads and ports, will commence this year. “We have a feeling in our gut that in Africa, where possibilities abound, Japan can grow vigorously,” said Abe.

The conference, collectively organized by the United Nations , the World Bank, the African Union and Japan, aims to encourage trade and aid to Africa while increasing Japan’s influence on the continent. This is the first time that TICAD is being held in Africa, with previous events hosted in Japan. Thirty African head of states along with 200 Japanese officials, including representatives from over seventy companies took part in the conference and are expected to sign approximately seventy declarations. 

Abe also announced the launch of the Japan-Africa forum and shared that Japanese business leaders and government officials will be visiting the continent every three years.  In his keynote speech, Abe mentioned that Japan will “empower ten million people (to work towards an) Africa which has high-quality (economic and social infrastructure) and is strong and stable”. 

In addition to the $10 billion from the Japanese government, an additional $20 billion will flow through the continent from Japan’s private sector. “This is an investment that has faith in Africa’s future.” Abe continued.

During the conference, Abe called on African leaders to enact measures, in regards to safety and legal matters, that will lead to a favorable business environment for Japanese investors. With approximately $179 billion in trade in 2015, China is currently Africa’s largest trading partner. Japan, however, hopes to distinguish its trade with the continent from China’s  by focusing on “quality infrastructure” and African-driven innovations. Along with the announcement of the $30 billion investment, Japanese and African leaders pledged to fight terrorism and emphasized the importance of maritime security as well as  promise to support Japan’s desire to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. In the Nairobi Declaration, adopted at the TICAD conference, leaders “reaffirmed our determination to urgently reform UN bodies including the Security Council”. With fifty countries in Africa, the continent makes up a large voting bloc within the UN. 

Acknowledging the challenges African nations face- infectious diseases, terrorism and the decline of commodity prices, the declaration highlights the promise by leaders to “create jobs for young people and women, promote structural economic reforms through diversification and strengthen health systems to improve the quality of life.”

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