Tokyo (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will offer humanitarian aid to Africa when he visits this week, the government said Wednesday, as his Ethiopian opposite number expressed a wish for more trade with Tokyo.
Japan’s top government spokesman said Abe wanted to be able to give the kind of assistance that will help develop the countries of the huge continent.
“With their robust economic growth in recent years, African nations are expanding their presence in the international community,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular briefing.
Abe hopes to use his visit to enhance Japan’s economic ties with Africa, including “business relations”, while also highlighting Japan’s efforts toward international peace, Suga said.
“The prime minister’s core offerings will centre around humanitarian aid, such as medical and sanitation,” he said.
Abe’s visit comes as Japan makes a concerted effort to re-establish its presence in Africa after years of taking a backseat to China’s voracious exploratory appetite.
Both countries need the resources the continent has to offer, but Japan’s protracted economic malaise has crimped Africa’s share of its once-generous aid budget, as has a renewed concentration of the emerging economies closer to home in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said he wanted to boost business ties with Tokyo.
“I am hoping for the transfer of technology from Japan” through investments, he told the influential Nikkei daily in an interview published Wednesday.
He said the relationship would be improved by the establishment of a direct flight linking the two countries, something likely to be made official next week when Abe visits Addis Ababa, the Nikkei said.
While Ethiopia relies on foreign aid, Desalegn said he planned to industrialise his nation, with a particular focus on expanding its textile and apparel exports, the Nikkei said.
Desalegn voiced optimism for his nation’s effort to broker a ceasefire between South Sudan’s government and rebel forces.
“We are continuing to hold dialogue with both sides. An agreement toward a ceasefire will be reached soon,” he told the Nikkei.
Delegates from both sides were in formal talks in Addis Ababa in an effort to end more than three weeks of fighting in the world’s newest nation.
The conflict has left thousands dead, according to UN officials, while more than 200,000 people have been displaced or have fled the country, many to Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Abe’s visit to Africa and the Middle East begins Thursday and will include stops in Oman, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Ethiopia.