Japan widens Africa focus


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited three African countries including Ethiopia to boost economic ties with the continent.
Shinzo visited the continent for the first time as a Prime Minister and was accompanied by a delegation from a wide variety of  businesses.


The current Japan’s PM visit mainly focused on facilitating increasing Japanese investment in Africa. On his visit to Africa Abe has met with heads of West African countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), at a conference held late last week in Cote d’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan.
Masaru Sato, assistant press secretary at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the PM’s visit to Abidjan is the first in West African francophone countries. Previously, Japan on a PM level only visited two Anglophone West African countries. The current visit in Cote d’Ivoire is considered to be a new move for Japan to strength on its relationship with the region on political, social and economic issues.
On his visit here in Addis Ababa, Abe and Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn, have talked about economic and security issues. Japan’s government has also expressed its intention that its companies will invest in Ethiopia, which is now getting attention in the continent because of fast economic growth and the potential of cheap labour.
Currently only one Japanese company, Mitsubishi, is involved in the coffee sector in Ethiopia, which is the major export item to Japan from Ethiopia. Representatives of the business delegation who accompanied the PM said that Ethiopia is a good place for  Japanese companies to establish a businesses because of the availability of cheap labour. Most of the companies’ from Japan are engaged in south East Asian countries. But currently the labour cost in the Far East has forced the Japanese companies to take a hard look at countries like Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Premier, who is also chairman of the African Union, agreed that it is time for Japan to invest in Ethiopia and other African countries. He strongly asserted that companies from Japan have to see the continent as a better option for their investment during his speech at the TICAD summit held in March last year in Addis Ababa.
On Sunday January 12 Masaru told Ethiopian based journalists that his government has a huge interest in being part of the economic development in Africa and Ethiopia. He also added that a Japanese leather goods company has an interest in investing in Ethiopia. He added that Ethiopia’s sheep skins are highly accepted in Japan.
He further said that other companies will soon invest both in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa.  . Currently Japan and Ethiopia are working together to develop the Aluto Langano geothermal project, which is expected to generate 70MW when it is fully finalized. Capital’s sources indicated that Toyota, the Japanese car giant has also expressed an interest in undertaking an oil pipeline construction project from South Sudan to Djibouti via Ethiopia.
During his visit Abe also talked with officials of West African countries and promised to support USD 83.4 million for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region.
The PM has also paid a visit to, Mozambique, which is one of the emerging African states. Currently, huge companies from the developed world are showing their interest to invest in the country following the finding of a huge natural resource deposit in the country.
Mozambique recently discovered gas and coal  and Japan is one of many investors scouting deals there. The PM has approved  USD 570 million loan for coal development in the south east African country. Economic partnership with Mozambique including the natural gas development is the major issue of discussion for the Japanese head while in Maputo.
In Mozambique on Sunday, Abe promised USD 672 million worth of investments in the country’s natural resources sector. Mozambique intends to build four Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) units with a total capacity of 20 million metric tonnes per year by 2018. Japan is the world’s largest importer of LNG.
Mozambique is set to become one of the world’s largest suppliers of LNG after the recent discovery of a vast offshore gas field.
Experts said that Japan is interested in expanding its investment in Africa, much like China has already done. Most international experts have stated that the visit can be considered a competition between the two nations.
Japan’s investment in Africa is very low when compared with China, while Japan has contributed to developmental projects in the continent. According to recent date, China has become the largest investor in Africa, with five times as much trade with the continent as the Japanese.
But Japanese officials declined these experts’ views. “Wherever he goes, Prime Minister Abe is asked if he is there to compete against China, but that’s not our intention at all, as far as the African nations are concerned, they are important regardless of China,” Abe’s senior officials, Hiroshigo Seko said.