Top Japanese and Chinese officials have been crisscrossing Africa since the start of 2014, a sign of the growing strategic importance both governments attach to that continent.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is currently on a mission taking him to Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, and Mozambique, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi began a four-nation visit to Africa Jan. 6, Asahi Shimbun reported
Mozambique remains a top priority for Japanese diplomatic efforts due to the recent discovery of some of the world’s largest gas fields there. Gas reserves are estimated at nearly 100 trillion cubic feet, representing more than two decades worth of consumption for Japan.
Mitsui & Co., a Japanese trading firm, has already acquired a 20-percent stake in the gas fields from Anadarko Petroleum Corp., an American company.
Abe’s visit to Sub-Saharan Africa, the first by a Japanese prime minister in eight years, is regarded at least in part as a response to similar moves by Beijing. Japan hopes to make the African nation a strategic base for countering China’s influence there.
The trip is a “belated recognition” that Japan is “falling behind a number of rising countries in Africa,” George Washington University International Relations professor David Shinn told the Financial Times.
Asahi Shimbun reported that China invested nearly $75 billion in various development projects in Africa between 2000 and 2011, citing statistics compiled by AidData, a U.S. research organization.
The money has been used for a wide array of purposes including harbor and road development and improvements in the medical, educational and financial sectors.
While significant, Japan’s investments in Africa thus far appear modest when compared to those made by Beijing.
Abe agreed to spend $676 million through 2017 on development assistance for a project in northern coastal Mozambique.
While visiting the Ivory Coast, Tokyo agreed to provide $7.7 million to assist veterans of the African nation’s civil war and to cooperate in the construction of “social infrastructure” there.
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