Japan moves to up its African affair

Japan has pledged about $14bn in aid to the African continent over the next five years and about $32bn in investment in a move that shows a refocus of energy to Africa by the Asian economic giant seek.

This promise was made by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the weekend during the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). The conference was attended by more than 40 African leaders including South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma.

As the third largest economy in the world; Japan’s exposure to the African continent is unimpressive. It trails by far those of comparable economies and mainly its neighbor China and also India. And yet it has been established that Africa holds future economic opportunities let alone the fact that Africa hosts critical mineral resources used by world economic giants to power up their industries.

The Japanese prime minister said Africa will be greatly assisted in its development path by private sector investment and also public private partnerships.

In South Africa, the largest economy in the African continent Japan has remained a critical player. Japanese automotives giants, like Toyota and Nissan, have been prominent in the development of South Africa’s automotive sector.

South Africa seeks to take exploit this position to enhance its gateway to the African continent theme. Speaking from Japan the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Pumla Ncapayi,  “I think we must emphasise the point that South Africa is not a gate keeper to the African continent. It’s a gateway because of services that it offers, such as infrastructure as well as financial services that can be considered when establishing a presence in the African continent.”

Early this year, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bank of Tokyo–Mitsubishi UFJ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an objective of beefing  up trade connections and investment flow.

Back then DTI director-general Lionel October said the agreement will strengthen and deepen the cordial bilateral relationship that exists between South Africa and Japan. “Japan is one of the leading countries when it comes to Information Communication Technology and manufacturing, and it is quite fitting for us as government to enter into an agreement that will benefit and assist in the industrialisation of both South Africa and the rest of the African continent,” said October.

October added that Japanese expertise would be useful for infrastructure development across the continent and for South Africa’s ambitions to beneficiate its mineral resources with a special focus on platinum which is largely used in the automotive sector.

Speaking from Japan Zuma reiterated the infrastructure development theme. “We are looking at Japan taking part in the infrastructure, how it could participate in the process of integration as economic regions. There will be projects where Japan will participate through the AU structures, but that does not cancel bilateral relations that Japan has with individual countries.”

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