Japan to double development aid to Africa over 5 years as China raises profile

TOKYO: The Japanese government will double its aid to Africa over the next five years to try to boost development on the continent, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Tuesday.

The announcement came ahead of a May 28-30 conference hosted by Japan and aimed at supporting Africa’s development, and as rival China increases its presence on the continent through massive aid and oil-linked investment.

Japan’s aid to Africa now averages 100 billion yen (US$960 million; €616 million) a year. Fukuda said Tokyo will double it to 200 billion yen (US$1.9 billion; €1.2 billion) over the next five years.

In 2006 China rolled out the red carpet for leaders from almost 50 African nations for the first summit between Chinese and African officials, highlighting vigorous ties centered around oil and development aid.

During the 2006 meeting, Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to double aid to Africa from its 2006 level by 2009. Hu promised billions of dollars (euros) in aid and loans.

China imports 32 percent of its oil from Africa. Oil producers Angola, Nigeria, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo absorb more than 60 percent of China’s direct investment to Africa.

Japan’s government and private sector, however, have made little effort to build ties until recently.

Japanese assistance to Africa will mainly be used to promote agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure projects, a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

"With an increase in ODA (official development assistance) to Africa, we would like to show our leadership in promoting development in Africa," the official said.

The announcement came even though Japan has cut official development assistance. Japan, once the world’s No. 2 international aid donor after the United States, now ranks fifth after Germany, France and England.

Source: IHT

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