Japan is the latest country to try to increase its involvement with Africa. The effort comes as China continues to increase its influence on the continent.
Many high-level leaders from around the world have visited Africa this year. Among them are Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several European diplomats. Experts see the visits by Western leaders as an attempt to challenge China’s power in Africa. They also see it as an attempt to oppose Russian influence on the continent.
A partner that grows together
Last month, Japan offered to offer African countries another choice of funds and investments.
Japan pledged the aid at the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), held in Tunisia. Japan also announced at the conference that about $1 billion would go to support African countries’ debt restructuring, a process in which countries modify their loans in order to avoid defaults. Japan said it hopes “to be a ‘growing partner with Africa'”.
In his comments at the event, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Russia and appeared to criticize China as well. He highlighted the current situation of serious economic inequalities and environmental problems in Africa. He called on the conference to “deal with issues such as the food crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine and unfair and opaque development financing.” When funding is opaque, loan details are not publicly available.
Paul Nantulya is a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Affairs in Washington, DC. He has participated in two previous TICAD conferences. He said the description of ‘opaque’ development finance was ‘certainly a reprimand in China.” Some observers argue that China conducts “debt-trap diplomacy.” In other words, it lets countries borrow money even when it’s clear they can’t repay debts. In theory, the borrowing country then comes under the political control of the lending country.
However, economists increasingly agree that the evidence does not support claims of a debt trap system by China. China canceled loans in many cases and rarely took possession of national assets. The allegation is still a common criticism of Western countries. This assertion irritates the Chinese leaders.
Articles in Chinese state media condemned Kishida’s remarks as an insult to China. The stories also say that Japan was dishonest about its reasons for offering help.
State-run Global Times said China had no problem with other countries offering aid to African nations. But he opposes Western countries, such as the United States and Japan, which try to make African countries suspicious of China.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies says Japan’s trade with Africa is worth about $24 billion a year. This amount is also much lower than China’s – a record $254 billion last year.
Experts on the subject told VOA that there are several key differences between China’s and Japan’s methods. The Chinese model involves the Chinese state cooperating directly with African ruling parties. Japan’s involves different types of organizations, including non-governmental organizations and international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program and the African Development Bank.
Shinichi Takeuchi is director of the Center for African Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He noted that China’s aid to Africa often focuses on areas such as Infrastructure and agricultural. Japan’s aid, he said, covers a wide interval areas of development, including human development issues.
I am Jill Robbins.
Kate Bartlett reported this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learn English.
words in this story
reprimand – not. a sharp and severe expression of disapproval
pledge – v. promise to give
Infrastructure – not. basic facilities such as transport, communications, power supply and buildings
interval – not. a number of different things of the same general kind
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