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Japan Reengaging With Africa in Face of Rising China

Johannesburg, South Africa – Japan is the newest nation to attempt to improve engagement with Africa within the face of China’s huge affect on the continent and amid perceived threats to the worldwide order.

There has been a flurry of visits to the continent by prime officers this 12 months, together with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European diplomats. The visits from Western leaders have been seen by many analysts as an try to counter Beijing’s clout, and to some extent, Russian affect.

Last month, Japan additionally sought to offer African international locations with an alternative choice to Chinese lending and funding, pledging to spend $30 billion on the continent and stressing a deal with coaching African professionals, meals manufacturing and inexperienced progress.

The pledge was made throughout the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) held in Tunisia.

In his remarks on the occasion, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Moscow and took an obvious swipe at China.

“It is true that a series of contradictions of the global economy, such as inequality and environmental problems, are concentrated in Africa at this moment. In addition, we need to urgently deal with issues such as the food crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine and unfair and opaque development finance,” he mentioned.

FILE – Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks throughout a news convention on the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Aug. 31, 2022.

Paul Nantulya, a analysis affiliate on the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Affairs who has participated in two TICAD conferences, mentioned the reference to “opaque” growth finance was “definitely a rebuke to China,” which has been accused of practising “debt trap diplomacy” – lending closely to international locations that may’t repay with a view to achieve political leverage.

During TICAD, Japan additionally introduced that some $1 billion would go towards assist for African international locations’ debt restructuring and promised that Japan “aspires to be a ‘partner growing together with Africa.'”

While there’s rising consensus amongst economists that the debt-trap accusations do not arise, it is nonetheless a typical criticism leveled by the West and its companions and enrages Beijing. Numerous articles in Chinese state media have slammed Kishida’s remarks as a smear marketing campaign and mentioned Japan’s funding pledge had “selfish intentions.”

State publication Global Times mentioned whereas China doesn’t have an issue with different international locations providing support to African nations, “what China opposes is the vicious attempt by Western countries, including the U.S. and Japan, to discredit China, asking African countries to be ‘wary’ of China at every turn.’

“African international locations have their very own judgment and don’t want the West to show them what to do,’ the Global Times quoted Yang Xiyu, researcher on the China Institute of International Studies, as saying.

The quantity Japan pledged at TICAD this 12 months was lower than China’s pledge of $40 billion ultimately 12 months’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Senegal.

Japan-Africa commerce, price some $24 billion a 12 months, in keeping with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, can be dwarfed by China’s, which amounted to a document $254 billion final 12 months.

“I think lately, Japan definitely has been trying to strengthen its engagements in Africa and obviously … China is a strategic competitor to Japan,” mentioned Nantulya. “There is an element of competition as far as Japan’s latest push in Africa is concerned.”

Akitoshi Miyashita, a world relations professor at Tokyo International University, echoed this concept.

“The recent TICAD conference was regarded by Tokyo as an important instrument to regain Japan’s presence in Africa in light of China’s growing influence in the region. In that sense, Japan’s ODA (official development assistance) in Africa has clear political purposes,” he instructed VOA.

However, he mentioned, Japan is “losing an aid competition with China” as a result of with giant nationwide debt and a shrinking economic system, Japan can’t afford to offer Africa with the amount of cash that China can. Japan additionally can’t present support to international locations accused of great corruption and human rights violations, whereas China’s loans are no-strings-attached – and most well-liked by some African international locations.

Philip Olayoku, a Nigerian tutorial and member of the African Association of Japanese Studies, mentioned he didn’t assume Tokyo was attempting to compete with China in Africa as a result of it merely cannot and “does not have the kind of clout that it used to have.”

FILE - In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) via video link in Beijing on Nov. 29, 2021. FILE – In this picture launched by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) through video hyperlink in Beijing on Nov. 29, 2021.

Instead, he mentioned, Japan is attempting to ‘consolidate its relationship, hold a part of what it has, in order that China does not displace it.”

While FOCAC and TICAD are similar, analysts told VOA there are several key differences, namely that the Chinese model involves the Chinese state cooperating with African ruling parties directly, while the Japanese one is more multilateral, involving civil society, NGOs and international organizations like the United Nations Development Program and the African Development Bank.

“China’s support in Africa tends to focus on the fields resembling infrastructure and agriculture, however Japan’s ODA covers a broader vary of growth fields, together with human growth points,” noted Shinichi Takeuchi, director of the African Studies Center at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Additionally, Japan tries to transfer knowledge and contribute to African self-sufficiency and has a post-war agenda of helping push for peace and democracy, analysts said. However, they noted that Japan also has an economic agenda, including trying to secure markets for its high-end products.

“It desires to advertise actions of Japanese companies in Africa. As Japan is dealing with numerous socio-economic challenges, together with financial stagnation and [an] ageing inhabitants, the federal government desires to learn from financial alternatives in Africa,” Takeuchi said.

Tokyo also has political agendas in Africa, analysts said. Japan is pursuing a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and China is its strong rival, Takeuchi pointed out. Additionally, African countries are the biggest voting bloc at the U.N., said Nantulya.

Tokyo is also concerned that African countries could side with China – as many already did on Ukraine – and against its interests in areas such as the Western Pacific where the two are in a dispute over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands.

“The Japanese are positively apprehensive that African international locations will probably be mobilized to assist Chinese strikes, to assist Chinese strategic positions on points … and it is one of many the reason why this present TICAD … is de facto targeted on actually reengaging African international locations diplomatically,” said Nantulya.

Asked whether Japan’s $30 billion commitment to Africa could be seen as an attempt to compete with China, Marie Hidaka, counselor at the Japanese embassy in South Africa, responded, “Nowadays, there are numerous fora via which many international locations have interaction themselves with Africa, however TICAD, launched by Japan, was the forerunner of such fora for African growth.”

“The $30 billion because the sum of private and non-private monetary contributions, which Japan introduced throughout the TICAD 8 held in final month in Tunis, focuses on funding in individuals and high quality of progress and goals for a resilient and sustainable Africa whereas fixing varied issues confronted by the African individuals,” she mentioned.