Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to visit Africa and the Middle East this week, bringing with him cash pledges for development as the government continues to elbow China’s growing prominence in the region. Around $577 million worth of loans to Mozambique is expected from the Prime Minister. The trip will take Abe to Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Oman and is the first by a Japanese premier in 8 years, to fulfill Abe’s pledge to visit the continent in the summit he hosted last year.
Speaking at the Tokyo International Conference on International Development last June, Abe said that, “Africa will be a growth center over the next couple of decades,” and that his country should make a commitment that would benefit both countries. The loans, which are more than 60 billion yen, will be used to construct roads and highways in Mozambique, while 10 billion yen will be used to build a geothermal power plant in Ethiopia. However, similar reports note that the road constructions are meant to back up Japanese mining companies to reach inland and far-flung areas with rare metals and minerals.
The visit comes at a time when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is leaving the region after visiting Ethiopia, Djibouti, Ghana and Senegal. While Japan has significantly slipped behind China in its footing within the region, criticisms have been heard regarding China’s lack of transparency in its relations with the African countries and disregard for demands on human rights improvement. Japanese officials hope to transform the ties between the two countries to make it more of a business, rather than a donor-recipient partnership. The amount pledged will be used mainly for infrastructure projects and is included in the 3.2 trillion yen Japanese public and private sectors are expected to invest in Africa.
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