YOKOHAMA. — A three-day conference on African development kicked off Wednesday in Yokohama, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to aggressively promote private-sector investment in Africa in his opening speech, but failed to set a new numerical target on funds to be funnelled to the continent.
Facing dozens of top African leaders at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Abe claimed the Japanese private sector invested US$20 billion in Africa over the past three years.
“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 US$20 billion in three years should, in the years to come, be surpassed anew from one day to the next,” Abe said, although he did not mention any specific investment goal.
“We will do whatever it takes to assist the advancement of Japanese companies into Africa. New TICAD will provide limitless support for investment and entrepreneurship.”
However, experts say many Japanese firms still remain reluctant to invest in Africa, which at one time made it almost impossible for Abe to meet his earlier pledge for Japanese investments on the continent.
In the previous TICAD meeting in 2016, Abe pledged that the Japanese government and private businesses combined would invest a total of US$30 billion in Africa over the following three years.
Now Japanese Foreign Ministry officials claim that Tokyo has met the US$30 billion target, as the government extended official development assistance totalling $10 billion and the Japanese private sector invested US$25,6 billion in Africa during that period.
But the goal was met only after the Foreign Ministry recently changed how it measured the investment, from using a net basis to a gross basis, which considerably boosted the total figure.
Ministry officials claimed the gross total is more appropriate, because net investment does not include certain funds such as dividends paid by African subsidiaries to the parent company in Japan.
Later in the day, the ministry announced that the top leaders of 42 African countries are participating in the latest TICAD, the highest number since 2008 when 41 took part in TICAD 4.
By top leaders the ministry is referring to either a head of a state, president, vice president or prime minister.
Japan is competing with many other countries advancing into growing African economies, in particular China, which last year pledged as much as $60 billion to extend economic assistance over the next three years. — The Japan Times.