China-Japan Renew Old Rivalry With Trade, Aid Deals For Africa

Written by Kevin Mwanza

The Scramble for resource deals in Africa between China and Japan has renewed old rivalries, with Japan accusing China of enticing the continent’s leader with expensive gifts and offerings, while on the other hand pledging big money to African nations.

The resource rich continent is turning out to be another tussle ground for the two Asian giants that for years have jostle for influence over obscure islands in the East China Sea.

A one week, three-nation,  tour of Africa by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been seen as a major shift of strategy, which China says is an attempt by its nemesis to gain support from African nations for a seat at the United Nation Security Council, something China opposes.

In a first visit in eight years by a Japanese Prime Minister to Africa, Shinzo came baring investment gifts to Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ivory Coast, and aid estimated to be as much as $14 billion. This is part of a promise by Tokyo to extend aid worth more than $30 billion to African countries over the next five years.

Japan has pledged $572 million to support transportation infrastructure projects in Mozambique, something analysts quoted by Bloomberg say is a prelude to sweeten a deal into the east African country’s new found natural gas reserves.

“Africa has now become the continent that carries the hopes of the world through the latent potential of its resources and its dynamic economic growth,” Abe said in his speech at the Africa Union headquarter in Addis Ababa, adding that Japan would offer a total of $2 billion in loans to the private sector, doubling a 2012 pledge.


He further pledged $320 million to a aid kitty addressing conflicts and disasters across the continent, from which $25 million will go towards addressing the conflict in South Sudan and $3 million towards the Central African Republic crisis.

In the absence of Japan over the last decade, China took advantage of strained relations between most Sub-Saharan Africa countries, that had already started leaning east for better deals, with the west to entrench itself as the biggest trade partner to this resource rich continent.

Tomohiko Taniguchi, spokesperson for Abe was quoted by BBC News saying that Japan’s aid policy is genuine and forging trade alliance with African nations would help them acquire industrial expertise. This is in comparison with China that has been severally accused of being non-committal on the social strife and conflict that goes on the continent.

Meanwhile, China, which is the biggest trading partner to at least 24 Sub-Saharan contries, has pledged to double the aid amount to Africa to 20 billion dollars a year.

The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who is expected to visit east and west Africa before the end of January, told the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao that China does not approve of “certain countries” which try to compete with others for their own interests and offer aid to Africa out of purely political motives.

“If there is any country out there that attempts to make use of Africa for rivalry, the country is making a wrong decision, which is doomed to fail,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry was quoted by The Globe and Mail telling a press conference last week.