Ide­ol­ogy, se­cu­rity di­lute Ja­pan aid to Africa

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Chen Yang

The Sev­enth Tokyo In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on African De­vel­op­ment (TICAD-7) ended in Ja­pan's port city of Yoko­hama on Fri­day. Speak­ing to re­porters at the end of the con­fer­ence, Ja­pa­nese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe warned African lead­ers about “debt sus­tain­abil­ity,” and em­pha­sized that “in pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance to Africa, we have to take note of the debt bur­den of the re­cip­i­ent coun­try and take care that the debt bur­den does not be­come ex­ces­sive.” Abe's re­marks were a clear swipe at China.

In ad­di­tion, par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries adopted the Ja­pan-drafted Yoko­hama Dec­la­ra­tion which in­cludes Abe's Free and Open Indo-pa­cific ini­tia­tive. This re­flects Ja­pan's in­ten­tion to not only vie for in­flu­ence with China on the African con­ti­nent but also alien­ate those coun­tries from China in terms of se­cu­rity and pull them over to its side.

The TICAD was ini­ti­ated by Ja­pan in 1993 and was ini­tially held ev­ery five years. Since 2016, the event has been held ev­ery three years. Besides pro­vid­ing eco­nomic as­sis­tance to Africa and help­ing with the con­ti­nent's de­vel­op­ment, Ja­pan launched TICAD with a deeper pur­pose – to seek sup­port from African coun­tries so it could win per­ma­nent mem­ber­ship of the UN Se­cu­rity

Coun­cil. The mo­tive was im­pure. To this day, Tokyo still hopes to so­licit sup­port from Africa so it can be­come one of the per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Seven years af­ter the first TICAD, the Fo­rum on Chi­naafrica Co­op­er­a­tion (FOCAC) was launched un­der the frame­work of South-south co­op­er­a­tion, fea­tur­ing “equal con­sul­ta­tion, en­hanc­ing un­der­stand­ing, ex­pand­ing con­sen­sus, strength­en­ing friend­ship, and pro­mot­ing co­op­er­a­tion.”

Although es­tab­lished later, FOCAC has made re­mark­able progress through prag­matic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Africa, pro­mot­ing Africa's em­ploy­ment, fi­nance, pub­lic health, and in­fra­struc­ture.

A 2017 Mckin­sey re­port in­di­cated that 89 per­cent of em­ploy­ees were African at over 10,000 Chi­nese-owned busi­nesses op­er­at­ing on the con­ti­nent across eight coun­tries. Xin­hua News Agency re­ported that trade vol­ume in 2018 be­tween China and Africa amounted to $204.2 bil­lion, while the vol­ume was only $10 bil­lion in 2000.

Ja­pan be­gan pro­vid­ing eco­nomic as­sis­tance to Africa much ear­lier than China af­ter the Cold War, but its in­flu­ence

and im­pact on the con­ti­nent can­not match China's. The Ja­pan Times re­ported that Ja­pa­nese firms have busi­nesses in 800 lo­ca­tions across Africa. To­day, 3,700 Chi­nese en­ter­prises con­duct busi­ness in Africa. It is es­ti­mated that some 1 mil­lion Chi­nese live on the con­ti­nent com­pared to the 8,000 Ja­pa­nese who live there.

TICAD has fo­cused on eco­nomic aid, while FOCAC'S ef­forts have been cen­tered on in­vest­ing in Africa. Although both pro­mote de­vel­op­ment, in­vest­ment is more beneficial for em­ploy­ment. In­stead of hyp­ing the so-called debt trap is­sue, Ja­pan should re­think if their con­tri­bu­tion to Africa is suf­fi­cient and why China has gained wide recog­ni­tion from African coun­tries.

The in­clu­sion of the Free and Open Indo-pa­cific ini­tia­tive in the Yoko­hama Dec­la­ra­tion high­lights Ja­pan's selfish­ness in as­sist­ing Africa. Although, it would be an overex­ag­ger­a­tion to la­bel Ja­pan's ef­forts as an at­tempt at “con­tain­ing China,” such ac­tion at least re­flects its in­ten­tion to force Africa to choose sides, thus plac­ing its sin­cer­ity in doubt.

African coun­tries will make a clear judg­ment on this is­sue and will not be led by Ja­pan's nose. Af­ter all, the friend­ship be­tween China and Africa has un­der­gone his­tor­i­cal tests.

Ja­pan's in­vest­ment, as­sis­tance, and in­flu­ence in Africa have been dwarfed by China's con­tri­bu­tions. Within this frame­work, Ja­pan is play­ing the ide­o­log­i­cal and se­cu­rity cards.

Africa is an in­de­pen­dent and open con­ti­nent, and Africans have the right to choose co­op­er­a­tion partners and de­vel­op­ment mod­els, es­pe­cially eco­nomic mod­els that al­le­vi­ate poverty and cre­ate jobs. In this re­gard, China's de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence and model have greater value. How­ever, this does not mean that the China model is the con­ti­nent's only op­tion.

If Ja­pan's care for Africa is not aimed at the well-be­ing of Africans but is fo­cused solely on the com­pe­ti­tion of big pow­ers, the di­vi­sion of in­flu­ence spheres and ide­ol­ogy, it will hardly win the sup­port of Africans no mat­ter how suc­cess­ful TICAD is or how much it sup­pos­edly aids. The au­thor is a me­dia pro­fes­sional and a Ja­pan watcher. opin­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu RUI/GT

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