Japan intends to invest more than $30 billion (Sh3 trillion) in key areas that could uplift African economies in the next three years.
In what appears to be a strong statement of intent, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government will invest an initial Sh1 trillion into Africa’s infrastructure projects, targeting roads, energy, ports, hospitals and training institutions.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) in Nairobi, Mr Abe said the money will partly be channelled through the African Development Bank.
He said the funds could go up to Sh3 trillion over the next three years, if we include contributions from Japanese private sector.
“Whatever problems there are in Africa, they are simply there to be solved, Period!” he told the participants.
Prime Minister said: “Japan is a country that ardently hopes to resolve the issues facing Africa and it will not let up in its efforts”.
The Japanese pledge, however, falls short of what the Chinese pledged last December when President Xi Jingping announced Sh6 trillion for Africa’s infrastructure.
But, unlike the Chinese, the Japanese investment will mostly be through organisations and civil society groups, rather than through government agencies. Mr Abe, accompanied by officials from 70 Japanese companies, said his motive was to work with African countries for development, rather than work for them.
“We want to indulge in as much vitality and self-confidence as we can from you, when you are moving forward with your eyes firmly fixed on the future,” he said.
Ticad, a three-yearly conference meant to improve relations between African countries and Japan and spur development, was taking place on African soil for the first time since inception in 1993.
And as leaders sat to discuss Africa’s woes, the continent’s security, poverty and lack of infrastructure to handle medical emergencies and global trading practices came to the fore.
At the opening ceremony, President Uhuru Kenyatta told participants there is a worrying trend for the developed world to turn inwards, even after benefiting from open trade before.
“Indeed, if we look back, the wealthiest countries today with very few exceptions, got rich by trading with others. The critical ingredient of prosperity in the last century has been free and fair trade, infrastructure integration of regions, educated citizens who enjoy economic liberty and responsible governments,” he said.
He said: “Yet there is now a tendency among many countries to turn towards more isolationist or grossly unfair positions on trade. I believe Ticad is a positive response to this trend”.
But the leaders said Africa’s challenge of insecurity, teeming masses of the youth and poor medical facilities needed to be relooked at.
President Kenyatta said Kenya, like many other countries around Africa, faces the threat of extremists and called for closer collaboration to deal with the challenge.
Last evening, participants deliberated on the proposals contained in the Nairobi Declaration, a document that will be read out on Sunday as the final resolution to the Ticad meeting.
A draft seen by the Nation shows the leaders committing to provide programmes to support the youth, promote science and technology, improve skills of workers and give the private sector more roles to play in rebuilding economies.
In the previous Ticad summit in Yokohama, Japan had pledged $32 billion (Sh3 trillion) for similar projects to run for four years.
The addition, Mr Abe said, was because 67 per cent of the projects in Africa were already complete.
They include the geothermal plant in Ol Karia and the expansion of the Port of Mombasa in Kenya.
And in an audience that included 23 Presidents, nine Prime Ministers and more than five Vice-Presidents, Mr Abe promised more.
He pledged $500 million (Sh50 billion) to be channelled through international organisations to support healthcare systems in Africa.
He hopes 300,000 people’s lives will be saved from the scourge of malaria, Ebola, HIV and Aids and other prevalent diseases on the continent.
African Union Chairman Idriss Derby, who is also President of Chad, said Africa welcomes any investment from the Japanese in sectors that will help grow their economies.