First, there is the negative aspect of it being a civilization that has become a nest for terrorism and AIDS. Second, Africa has become an important continent in terms of its economic aspects. The continent has moved remarkably into the international spotlight because of its natural resources. With rapid economic growth in such emerging countries as China and India, the demand for natural resources across the world has been rising.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has already traveled to 14 African countries and Premier Wen Jiabao has visited eight African countries over the past few years. Japan has embassies in 27 African countries, but China has 47 embassies. China aims to secure oil and mineral resources in Africa. China hosted the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in Beijing in 2006. In the meeting, China declared it would establish a development fund by investing $5 billion in it. Of China’s overseas aid to other countries of the world, more than 40% has been directed toward Africa. Africa has become a strategic target for China.
The problem about China’s moves is that the country spreads money around freely and without being fettered by any rules set by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which are applied to the industrialized countries. All China wants is to do is secure resources. China doesn’t care to whom they grant money: human rights violators or dictators.
Meanwhile, Japan is an honest aid provider, but regrettably, the amount of aid provided by Japan is very small. Japan’s economic cooperation budget has been trimmed every year in the course of budget examination. As a result, the current budget is a 40% decrease from a decade ago because during that timeframe, the aid budget has been cut across the board in line with the principles for economic and fiscal management and structural reform concerning budget compilation. The budget for economic cooperation is now merely 1.5% of the general budget. It is possible to handle that budget as an exceptional case from budget cuts if a political decision is made to do so. ODA is a kind of world tax for Japan to survive in the world.
China has decided to donate a huge building to be used as the headquarters of the African Union (AU). This donation has gained publicity not only in Ethiopia, where the AU headquarters is located, but also all over Africa. All Japan can do about that is just watch.
Japan is to host the 4th round of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama City. The session is to kick off on May 28. It is expected to be joined by representatives from 53 African countries. Of them, more than 40 countries will send their top leaders. This will be an unprecedented gathering of so many top leaders from Africa, but Japan has yet to gain momentum as a host country. One reason seems to lie in the fact that under the current public relations budget of the Japanese government, it is not allowed to create anything but a limited number of brochures and posters on the upcoming TICAD.
Drastic changes in relations between countries and economic competition are gaining impetus across the world. Africa’s population exceeds 900 million persons. It was unlikely in the past that destitute areas with an overcrowded population would grow economically, but now an overcrowded region is growing. Africa’s economic growth rates are higher than those of the Group of Eight industrialized countries. Africa’s economy is about to take off. Japan has succeeded in having more than 40 top leaders from Africa join the TICAD meeting. This is great. I praise the Japanese government’s efforts in this regard. Africa relies on Japan. Africa has begun to walk on its own. This is to be noted.” — END ARTICLE
“Poverty, hunger, infectious disease, conflict — words that readily come to mind when Japanese consider Africa.”