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Abe’s Visit Demonstrates Japan’s Multilayered Approach to Africa

Monday, Jan. 20, 2014

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finished a three-country tour of Africa with an aim to create new opportunities for Japanese companies on the continent, a promise of dramatically increased loans and a pledge to bolster Tokyo’s role in the maintenance of peace and security there. Abe’s visit, which took him to Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia, was the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa by a Japanese leader since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi toured the continent in 2006.

Abe’s renewed focus on Africa is driven by a range of factors but can be loosely characterized as an attempt to diversify traditional Japanese efforts on the continent, focused on soft power or “checkbook” diplomacy through massive overseas development assistance (ODA), without necessarily abandoning this hallmark of Japanese diplomacy. In fact, Abe bolstered Tokyo’s financial commitments to Africa during his trip, announcing that Japan would over the next five years double its loans to Africa, from $1 billion to $2 billion, for the development of infrastructure and other areas. This builds on the pledges of last year’s Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, through which Japan has been pushing a two-pronged approach to overseas loans that focus on African ownership complemented by international partnership and high-level policy dialogue between leaders. ...

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