Japan’s pivot to Africa policy

(VOVworld) – The 6th Tokyo international conference on African development concluded on August 28, in Kenya. During the 2-day event, bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and African leaders were held with Tokyo’s commitments to investing into the African market and increasing its influence in the region. 

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Kenya's capital Nairobi, August 27, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)

This was the first time a conference on trade promotion and aid for Africa took place in an African country, while the previous 4 conferences were held in Japan. There were 6,000 participants, including 40 heads of state and representatives from international organizations, major donors, and social, civil organizations and the private sector.

The conference approved the Nairobi Declaration, which focused on dealing with terrorist threats via such measure as education. Japan pledged 30 billion USD of investment capital for Africa in the next 3 years, 10 billion USD of which will be channelled to infrastructure development.

Bilateral cooperation was strengthened with Kenya and Japan signing an investment agreement to boost their economic relations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the African leaders signed numerous aid and infrastructure development projects, including building roads, ports and railway system.

Japan has shown its increasing interest in Africa, which is a potential market and rich in energy and mineral resources. The number of Japanese companies operating in Africa has increased rapidly. In December 2012, the Toyota Tsusho group bought France’s CFAO SA group to dominate the markets in 53 out of 54 African countries.

Toyota Tsusho plans to open 80 trade centres in Ivory Coast and 7 other African countries by 2020. Japan’s Mitsui, Yamaha Motors, Simimotor Rubber, and Toridoll restaurant chain took this opportunity to establish business relations with African countries. In 2015, trade turnover between Japan and Africa reached 24 billion USD. Japan’s major African partners are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Kenya, Liberia, and Tanzania.

The first Tokyo international conference on African development of which Japan is one of the founders, took place in 1993. Other co-organizers are the UN, the World Bank, and the African Union.