To read this article in Deutsch, Francaise, Italiano, Portuguese, Espanol, copy and paste the complete URL("http://www.generator21.net/africa9.html") and enter it in the box after you click through.
|The World's Magazine: generator21.net
Event # 254: SILVER THUNDERBIRD
G21 Digital Internet Postcards
G21 Barnes & Noble Search Engine
G21 E-MAIL NEWSLETTER
G21 LATIN AMERICA
MEMOIRS OF THE INFO AGE
MY GLASS HOUSE
THE SEX COLUMN
RECOMMENDED DAILY REQUIREMENT ARCHIVES.
MEMOIRS OF THE INFO AGE ARCHIVES.
G21 STUFF: Look, we have to be honest with you. We don't want Rod to be the only person on the planet to own a G21 t-shirt. Help us out here. Thank you so much!!!
LAST WEEK's EDITION
MEET THE G-CREW! These are the people behind this jam-band every week. AND there are GUIDELINES FOR YOU TO JOIN THE BAND...
NAIROBI - Keen interest was bound to be aroused in diplomatic circles as soon as word went round that Japan's Prime Minister, Mr. Yoshiro Mori, was scheduled to visit three of black Africa's most prominent nations--South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria 7 - 12 January of 2001.
And it was. Here, for the first time, was an incumbent Japanese head of government, with all the clout of the world's second greatest economy, touring Africa. In the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, as well as in China, all three stops by Mori were observed keenly, coming as they did at a critical juncture in international relations and the global economy.
Who was this man who had decided to go where no other Japanese Premier has gone while in office? Perhaps the fact that Mori had been a journalist before joining politics way back in 1969 had something to do with his horizons being broader than those of all his predecessors. A member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Mori, 63, became prime minister in April last year after his predecessor, Mr Keizo Obuchi, suffered a stroke and went into a coma.
Now at the tail end of a decade of economic recession in Japan, when signs of recovery were just becoming evident, and certainly no stranger to constitutional issues, economic recession and the strategic calculations that go into unequal trading partnerships, it was this seasoned political operative who toured Africa, a part of the world where constitutionality, poverty and trade gaps are seemingly intractable problems.
For Africa and much of the third world, this was certainly very good news. Here was the Prime Minister of Japan telling the world a fact of the 21st century, that there would be no global stability and prosperity if Africa's perennial problems of poverty, disease, chronic conflicts and environmental degradation were swept casually under the carpet. Months before, Mori had -- in his capacity as chairman of the G8 group of nations -- superintended talks with leaders of African countries about which way was best for the continent.
Not that Japan is not keen on spreading her influence in Africa. So much so that today Japan has risen to be the number one donor of development assistance in former British colonies. In Francophone Africa, she is only second to France. But while the French have mainly provided financial aid, Japanese aid has often taken the form of development projects.
Even as many bilateral donors have shifted their support to the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War, Japan has continued to financially support other developing countries -- especially those in Africa.
Last year, for instance, the Netherlands announced that it would freeze all bilateral development assistance to Kenya by 2002 because of bad governance. This bad governance, the Netherlands claimed, made it impossible to achieve progress in programmes funded by that country. That same year, Kenya became the largest beneficiary of overseas development assistance in sub-Saharan Africa with technical assistance from Japan topping KSh4.4 billion (US$56.4 million) in grants and loans.
Since 1986, Japan has been the largest donor to Kenya which also happens to be the largest recipient, in the continent, of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan in terms of overall totals. The assistance is channeled largely through the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA). For Kenya, this Japanese assistance has also been very instrumental in revitalising the country's economy which has hopped from crisis to crisis thanks to a series of natural and man-made disasters in the decade of the 1990s. On her part, South Africa has received close to US$3 billion since the end of apartheid in 1994
But it is the unequal trading relationship which exists between Africa and Japan that would best explain this latest Japanese diplomatic offensive.
In 1997, for example, Japan exported to Kenya goods worth US$181 million--including transportation equipment, electrical machinery, steel, general machinery and communications equipment. Kenya, on the other hand, exported goods worth US$24.2 million to Japan including filleted fish, macadamia nuts, coffee, tea and cut flowers. The picture is replicated everywhere else in the continent with trade weighing heavily in Japan's favour.
Thus it is with a view to exploiting her economic might that japan has embarked on this latest diplomatic offensive. The offensive, according to Professor Hirono Ryokichi of Tokyo's Seikei University, has two primary objectives.
- Japan, being an export-oriented economy, he says, is keen to have a bigger market for her exports. With markets in Europe, United States and Asia getting more and more saturated, Africa, for Japan, is the market of the future. Which explains why Japan is keen to ensure that African economies develop. A rich and prosperous Africa would afford more Japanese goods and Japanese exports to Africa would increase steadily, especially to South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria-- the three countries Mori visited.
These are key countries which serve as springboards to wider and bigger regional markets--South Africa to the Southern Africa Development Co-operation (SADDC) region, Kenya to the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) region and Nigeria to countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
- A second primary objective of this Japanese diplomatic offensive is targeted at securing Africa's support for an increased Japanese role in the world, particularly in the United Nations. "At some point in the near future, Japan will seek a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and it will expect its friends in Africa to back its bid, " contends Ryokichi, who also doubles as an economic advisor to his country's government.
Japan's efforts to revive Africa's economic fortunes began way back in the early 1990s with the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). The conference brought together Africa and its development partners, including the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to find ways of helping the continent end its endemic poverty. TICAD II was held in 1998 to monitor the implementation of TICAD I resolutions and a third conference is now in the offing.
"Our diplomacy will be tested when we get involved in Africa", noted Chief Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Yasuo Fukuda ahead of Mori visit. Thus the visit was also aimed at raising Japan's diplomatic profile and influence around the globe.
This had long been in the works. In 1997, Japan created the position of a Special Peace Envoy to Africa. His main brief was to work towards the resolution and prevention of African internal conflicts which are partly to blame for the continent's problems. It is as a result of this effort that Japan has recently stepped up its assistance to refugees uprooted by civil conflicts in Africa. This first holder of the post, Mr. Morihisa Aoki, has since been posted to Kenya as his country's ambassador.
A disturbing fact for the Japanese, however, is that despite being the leading providers of Official Development Assistance in the world, contributing nearly US$10 billion annually, Japan continues to operate in the shadows of Western powerhouses like the United States, Britain and France when it comes to diplomatic and economic influence, not only in Africa, but also elsewhere in the world.
Despite the aid, Japanese investment in Africa can still not match that of her Western rivals. Matters have not been helped by the fact that for a long time, Japan viewed the African market as being too small compared to that which the South East Asian and Chinese markets were offering. "A market of more than a billion people is every investors dream," a former Japanese ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Shinsuke Horiuchi, once responded to queries over why his country was paying a great deal of attention to the Asia markets at the expense of Aftrica.
Essentially, this means that Japan will have to boost its economic and diplomatic presence in the Third World beyond the billions in overseas development assistance if it is to match its Western rivals.
Then there is the fact of history. Most African countries were colonies of either Britain, France, Germany or Belgium. When it came to trade in the post-independence era, the shared history and language gave those Western powers, and to a large extent the United States, a definite head-start over economic upstarts like Japan and the Asian Tigers of South East Asia.
Which leaves Japan with little alternative option but to strive exceptionally hard to overcome long-established British and American giants in Africa like General Motors and Lonrho if she is to increase her influence in Africa.
ROBERT ODUOL - writes for The East African when not here at G21. Previously served with the Nairobi, Kenya-based Central Africa News Agency, as Editor of Trade and Industry Magazine and senior writer for the Economic Review and Weekly Review newsmagazines. This is his fourth article for G21: The World's Magazine.
© 2001, GENERATOR 21.E-mail your comments. We always like to hear from you. Send your snide remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org.