Japan pledges $17.5b in aid to Africa over 5 years

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan is to give US$14 billion (S$17.5 billion) in aid to Africa over the next five years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday at the opening of a conference in Tokyo on the resource-rich continent.

"The ODA (overseas development aid) will be about 1.4 trillion yen ($14 billion)" Mr Abe said at the start of the three-day, five-yearly conference, with leaders of more then 40 African countries present.

Including this aid, "Japan will offer up to 3.2 trillion yen (S$40.1 billion) support to Africa's growth via public and private sector investment", he said.

Japanese firms are keen to develop a slice of Africa's growing market, and the country as a whole needs access to some of the resources the continent harbours.

Despite relatively long-standing connections, Japan's importance to Africa has slipped behind that of China, whose more aggressive approach has given it five times the trading volume and eight times the direct investment.