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Japan versus the pirates

By now you know that Japan will open a military base in Djibouti, a small African state strategically located at the southern end of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Aden, to counter rising piracy in the region. You also probably know that the pirates are hijacking ships and demanding loot. Beyond that, what else do you know about the pirates, their homeland and the region? What else is at stake for Japan?

[Via Open Democracy] “Japanese policy-makers are well aware of the productive base of African economies (as suppliers of primary goods) and that the tariff walls, non-tariff barriers and subsidies that surround the markets of developed countries make it impossible for Africans to penetrate. In essence, as former Japanese ambassador Shinsuke Horiuchi points out: “The trade rules of developed countries are impediments to what they advocate: free trade.””

…it can be easy to forget how insignificant Japanese investment in Africa has become. Between 2002 and 2004 Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to only $415 million, roughly 0.4% of Japan’s total FDI during the period. Moreover, 85% of these investments were concentrated in two countries, Liberia and South Africa. Liberia alone accounts for 50% of all Japanese investments in the region; and since these investments have nothing to do with development promotion or wealth-creation – because they are mainly concerned with Japanese ships that use the Liberian flag of convenience – they have no relevance to the issue of sustainable growth and development.

By contrast, China’s frantic procurement of natural resources from Africa has brought some momentum to the African economies. China’s total trade with Africa came to $73.5 billion in 2007, far exceeding Japan’s $26.6 billion. This reinforces the question posed by Hirano Tatsumi of whether the principle behind Ticad has not passed its sell-by date. China’s dramatic economic incursion into Africa – fuelled by hunger for its raw materials – has changed the environment in which Ticad is operating; alongside this Africans’ own perception of themselves and their circumstances has changed at least since Ticad II in 1998, and continues to evolve.”

See the graphic above for information on Japan’s and China’s investment in Africa. Additionally, here is an interesting take on the pirates that provides a little more to the story:

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