On May 25th, at the Tokyo International Conference for African Development, Japan announced that it would be awarding an aid package worth 3.2 trillion yen (the equivalent of $32 billion) to Africa. This is in an effort to catch up with Chinese aid to the continent and position itself as an international investment partner. The conference, which was co-organized by the United Nations, the World Bank, and the African Union, hosted delegates from over 50 African nations.
Catching up with China will be difficult, however. While $32 billion is no small sum (in fact it is equal to all aid given heretofore to Africa by Japan), the country still falls behind the total aid given by China ($166 billion in 2011) by over a whopping sixty-three percent.
The package places priority on training workers (30,000 over the next five years), as well as providing loans to bolster infrastructure. Ethiopia and Senegal, in particular, will serve as hubs for human resource development. Over the next five years, 1,000 African students will also have the opportunity to study in Japan, using young people to bridge an important diplomatic gap. Many African citizens will also have the opportunity to work in Japan, gaining valuable professional experience that they will be able to then use in their native countries.
Japan also seeks to improve agriculture in Africa, as food scarcity is a cornerstone of poverty there. Japan’s prime minister said that the country is devoted to transforming African farmers from those that farm to eat, to those that farm to make money. There is already some trepidation from some countries concerning certain policies, however. In Malawi, for example, residents recently rallied unsuccessfully to halt drilling by a Japanese oil and natural gas company, arguing that pollution caused was detrimental to locals as well as to the eight million square feet of pine trees in the mountain region that have been destroyed as a result of the venture.
– Samantha Mauney
Source: Global Post,International Business TimesAmsterdam News