Differentiate Japan's aid to Africa from China's in terms of quality: The Japan News

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shakes hands with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint news conference at the State House in Nairobi, Kenya on Aug 28, 2016.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shakes hands with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint news conference at the State House in Nairobi, Kenya on Aug 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

In its editorial on Aug 31, the paper encourages Tokyo to offer know-how to build infrastructure and develop people, as it enters the "final fronter" of the world economy.

Africa's healthy development is indispensable to world stability. It is necessary to provide support through the joint efforts of the public and private sectors and establish a relationship of reciprocity embracing the potential for growth as the continent develops.

The Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) was held in Nairobi, with the leaders of Japan and about 50 African nations attending, among others. They adopted the Nairobi Declaration, calling for economic structural reforms and reinforcing measures against communicable diseases as its main pillars.

In a keynote speech, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged a total of US$30 billion (S$40.92 billion) in investments from the public and private sectors over a period of three years through 2018, and to develop human resources, including about 10 million engineers.

"The time has come to make the best of Japan's capabilities, Japanese companies' capabilities," Mr Abe emphasised.

Blessed with rich natural resources and given its rapid increase in population, Africa is referred to as "the final frontier" of the world economy, leading many countries to compete to make investments in the continent.

But, in recent years, Africa has faced such challenges as declining prices for natural resources, the spread of Ebola and other infectious diseases, frequent civil wars and terrorism.

The continent is far from being in a situation under which it can eradicate poverty and achieve social stability.

It is reasonable that the Nairobi Declaration refers to "economic diversification" without relying merely on exports of resources. It is essential to promote investment in high-quality infrastructure and foster human resources through the prudent use of Japanese expertise, thereby encouraging self-sustained development.

Many Japanese business corporations and associations took part in the TICAD conference, which was held for the first time in Africa, and discussed concrete investment projects. The Japanese business community has high expectations for Africa as a potentially huge market.

Twenty-two Japanese firms and business associations signed memorandums on a total of 73 projects. It is highly significant that the range of cooperation is diverse, covering geothermal power generation, agricultural development, hospital construction and malaria control measures.

Mr Abe announced a plan to launch the "Japan-Africa Public and Private Economic Forum" as a permanent forum for which members of the Japanese Cabinet, together with top executives from Japan's major business associations and corporations, will visit Africa once every three years. It is imperative for Japan and Africa to maintain close cooperation and pursue mutual benefits.

In December, China announced a plan to offer US$60 billion in aid to Africa over a period of three years. This figure is double Japan's. But there is strong criticism that China's assistance will not lead to fostering personnel and technical transfers because China places priority on profits for its firms and procurement of resources.

In addition to construction of infrastructure with an emphasis on quality, it is essential for Japan to provide knowhow on the maintenance and operation of infrastructure and offer elaborate programmes to foster local experts, thereby differentiating its assistance from China's.

Mr Abe has come out with an India-Pacific initiative of making the Pacific and Indian oceans "peaceful seas governed by the rule of law". Maintaining a rules-based maritime order and the necessity of reforming the United Nations Security Council were also incorporated in the Nairobi Declaration.

Both of these points were made with China in mind. From the viewpoint of encouraging China to exercise restraint and avoid self-centered behavior, Japan must build a strategic relationship with African countries.

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The Japan News is a member of The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.