On Wednesday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised his country’s private sector will invest Sh2 trillion ($20 billion) over three years in Africa.
Addressing African leaders at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama, Abe said Japan is interested in infrastructure and human development on the continent.
"I make this pledge to you: The government of Japan will put forth every possible effort so that the power of Japanese private investment, of $20 billion in three years, should in the years to come be surpassed anew from one day to the next," he said in his opening speech at TICAD.
"We will do whatever it takes to assist the advancement of Japanese companies into Africa," he added.
In addition, Japan will also train 3,000 people over a period of six years under a human resource development program for Africa so there will be more people from the continent who can contribute to promoting Japan-Africa business relations.
Japan is not, however, a new entrant into Africa’s affairs. Since 1993, the country has partnered with African countries to hold the TICAD conference around every five years to promote aid and business opportunities.
At the 2016 TICAD conference held in Kenya, Abe mentioned that Japan wanted African countries to view it as a partner rather than just a donor.
According to Japan's ministry of foreign affairs, the country invested $20 billion in the continent from 2016-2018.
Catching up on China easier said than done
Catching up on China and displacing it is not an easy feat and Japan know it.
“China and Africa can forge a stronger comprehensive and strategic partnership. China promises to engage with Africa on a principle of sincerity and real results,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the close of the 2018 China-Africa Forum for Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Beijing.
“China’s 1.3 billion people and Africa’s 1.2 billion want a shared future,” said the Chinese leader.
At the end of FOCAC China announced it had set up a new $60 billion kitty meant for Africa’s development as part of a raft of new measures to strengthen Sino-Africa ties.
Japan hopes to leverage on its provision of long-term structures in Africa and is more focused on promoting a healthy relationship with the continent as opposed to going head to head on foreign direct investment with China according to Jonathan Berkshire Miller, a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
"Japan does not see Africa as a ground for zero-sum competition with Beijing -- but is rather looking for ways to enhance its longstanding engagement to promote healthy governance and sustainable business," said miller, CNN reported.