Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged a $30 billion investment in Africa on August 27, 2016, noting that his country has faith in Africa’s future. Abe was in Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). He said the $30 billion in public and private support for education, healthcare expansion, and infrastructure development on the African continent is in addition to $32 billion that Japan pledged over a five-year period at the last TICAD meeting in 2013, of which 67 percent is already in play.
Japan is struggling to catch up with China’s investment in the region. According to the Japan External Trade Organization, the country’s overall direct investment in Africa was $1.24 billion in 2015 and about $1.5 billion in 2014. By comparison, in April 2015 China invested $2 billion in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea in just one month. “Simply put, Japan is still in the backseat with regard to engagement with the continent as China continues to pour billions across Africa,” according to J. Berkshire Miller, director of the Council on International Policy.
Many Africans admire Japan’s economic and technological prowess, according to Kingsley Ighobor, writing for The Africa Renewal, produced by the Africa Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information, but others see the country as a former world power. In general, Ighobor reported in April 2016, Africans are not knowledgeable about Japan’s interest in the continent despite the investments made since 2013. He noted that many did not realize that until 2000, when China took the lead, Japan was Africa’s largest Asian economic partner.
Abe recognizes the value of investing in the rapidly expanding region that will hold an estimated 2.8 billion people by 2060. Unable to match China’s dollars, he hopes to win African leaders with a promise of a quality partnership. His presence in Nairobi for the event that attracted more than 30 African heads of state also provided Kenya with an opportunity to renew its concerns about continued trade in ivory. Abe also shared his view of what Japanese companies require to continue to invest in Africa, noting that they seek safe business environments. He urged Africans to maintain peace and stability. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya told Abe that Africans want a partnership that is of mutual benefit.