Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has finally laid out Japan’s program to seal business partnership with Africa while upholding the continent’s human rights and social welfare. It marks the beginning of Japan’s aim to change its relationship with Africa from aid-led into business partnership. Called the Yokohama Declaration, the pact was announced during the three-day Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) summit held in Yokohama. The prime minister opened the summit with a pledge of 1.4 trillion yen for the continent.
“Africa will be a growth center over the next couple of decades until the middle of this century… now is the time for us to invest in Africa,” declared Prime Minister Abe. Japan will be investing 3.2 trillion yen in Africa in the next five years. Public and private sectors will be contributing to the investment, some of which will be spent in building ports, power grids, roads and rails, among others. Africa’s agriculture industry was also acknowledged. TICAD co-hosts African Union, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank expressed their desire to help improve agriculture among African nations. The continent may expect an increase by six percent and double rice production by 2018.
Abe has also taken into consideration the growth of middle class in the continent, aiming to double job offers to 400,000 from Japanese firms based in Africa. “Japan will not simply bring natural resources from Africa to Japan. We want to realize industrialization in Africa that will generate employment and growth,” Abe said. The prime minister, acknowledging the private sector as a vital growth engine, promised, “We will support and strengthen the private sector, promote greater private investment, and improve the investment climate and legal and regulatory frameworks.”
Africa and Japan are known to have long ties although it was mainly aid-led. With Africa’s economic potential catching international attention, including China, Japan has decided to pursue its relationship with Africa on profitable grounds, ensuring return of investment on both sides. Not only focusing on business, Shinzo Abe assured the African nations, “The type of growth the TICAD recognizes is not just figures… it (aims to) achieve high-quality growth by distributing benefits widely and deeply among people in the society.” Such declaration puts Japan in advantage albeit just having started in its investment in the continent compared to China with its aggressive approach, which others find too self-seeking. However, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei challenged Japan’s Yokohama Declaration. “We also hope Japan can follow through on various commitments it has made so as to deliver real benefits to African people,” he said, adding that China has also given aid to Africa for a long time.
[via Straits Times]
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