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Japan vows billions to counter China in Africa

August 27, 2022

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged $30 billion in an effort to counter China's influence on the continent as Tunisia hosted the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed a conference on African development via video conference following a positive coronavirus testImage: Shuhei Yokoyama/AP Photo/picture alliance

Speaking virtually Saturday to a conference in Tunis focused on Japanese investment in Africa's development, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged $30 billion (€30.1 billion) over three years in an apparent effort to counter China's rising influence on the continent.

Amid a "complex" geopolitical environment, Japan pledged the money as Africa bears the brunt of the disruptions caused to the global supply chain and inflationary prices.

The pledge comes as Beijing increases its influence in Africa with major investments. Observers have raised concerns about the long-term sustainability of some African nations' borrowing from China. 

What did Kishida promise?

Kishida addressed the conference by live video after a recent positive COVID-19 test. In his address, he vowed, "Japan will invest both public and private funds worth $30 billion over the next three years" across the continent.

The prime minister said the funding "includes up to $1 billion in a new special quota to be established by Japan to promote debt consolidation reforms."

Kishida said Tokyo was prepared to finance up to $5 billion alongside the African Development Bank.

Of the funds, $300 million will co-finance the African Development Bank to boost food production as global supplies of grain and wheat fall well short of demand due to the war in Ukraine.

Another $100 million was earmarked for the host country, Tunisia, to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

Kishida also spoke of the need to protect the rules-based international order after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Global consequences of the Ukraine war

What did host country Tunisia say?

Ahead of the conference, African news outlets were not granted access to delegates ahead of the event, except Tunisian state media.

Tunisia is among the countries most affected by the dual transnational crises of first the COVID-19 pandemic and then Russia's decision to invade Ukraine earlier this year.

Tunisian President Kais Saied praised Japan's history of providing development aid. "The world cannot continue as it was," Saied said. "With all its wealth and assets, Africa cannot watch its people live through poverty."

Saied became president in 2019, before seizing broad powers formally enshrined through a constitutional referendum, a move critics charge was a soft coup.

The event caused friction between Tunisia and Morocco, which was angered by Tunis' invitation for the Polisario movement that seeks independence for the Western Sahara, a territory Rabat views as part of the country.

Is Tunisia on a path to dictatorship?

ar/fb (AFP, Reuters)