Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Self-less Interests?

Japan has become the latest nation to join the scramble for Africa’s booty of natural resources.  Japan has announced $20 billion to match China’s $14 billion, which is also driving many others to step in with substantial contributions themselves so as not to get edged out. Japan was falling behind a number of rising countries in Africa”, including the Europeans, India, Brazil, South Korea and Turkey.  Prime minister Shinzo Abe described Africa as “the frontier for Japanese diplomacy”, in comments made to reporters.

Abe  announce more than 60billionYen ($570m) in loans to Mozambique to help finance a transport network to transport coal to a new export terminal. Last year Tokyo promised more than $30bn in aid to African countries over the next five years.  Mozambique intends to build four LNG units with a total capacity of 20 million metric tonnes per year by 2018. Japan is the world’s largest importer of LNG. The visit is intended to shore up the world’s third largest economy’s access to fossil fuels at a time when the Fukushima tragedy has forced Japan to shut down 50 nuclear reactors that accounted for nearly a quarter of the country’s energy needs.

Abe stopped off in Abidjan, capital of Cote d’Ivoire, where he met leaders of the ECOWAS regional grouping and promised $ 83.4 million for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region.

But what is missing is any sustained effort to address Africa’s long-term problems such as poverty alleviation, getting self-sufficient in food production and bringing wars to an end.That is quite different from doling out money to governments for trade deals and UN votes. Economists expect Africa to create 54 million new jobs by 2020, but 122 million Africans will enter the labour force during that timeframe. Adding to this shortfall are tens of millions currently unemployed or underemployed, making the human and economic consequences nearly too large to imagine.

 Abe is led the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to sub-Saharan Africa in eight years to support Japanese companies’ investments to secure important natural resources. The top Japanese trading houses, or sogo shosha, have already started to pour billions of dollars into projects including Mitsui’s project in Mozambique to produce liquefied natural gas. Sumitomo and Mitsubishi are also targeting the region.  Hiroyuki Takai, head of research at Sumitomo, the Tokyo-based trading house, said the Japanese push would trigger some “competition between Chinese and Japanese companies”.

Not to be outdone by Japan’s diplomatic visit, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi started his visit to Africa, “China fosters relations with African countries based on the principle of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” and tries its best to make contributions to the cause of peace and development of African countries,”

China has invested billions of dollars in the region, on top of billions more in no-strings-attached soft loans that have financed railways, power plants and other infrastructure projects across Africa. Chinese trade with Africa is far larger too, rising in 2012 to nearly $180bn, compared with $25bn for Japan. China arrived in Africa has so far built a ‘befitting’ headquarters for the African Union in Addis Ababa and several presidential palaces for African presidents in exchange for privileged access to the continent’s natural resources and manufactured goods markets.

In 2014, India will be hosting  the Third India-Africa Forum Summit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking  to expand its sphere of influence in the western Indian Ocean facing the coast of eastern Africa, said that "as we strive to realize our due place in the comity of nations..it goes without saying that the realization of our goal lies in widening, deepening and expanding our interaction with all our economic partners, with all our neighbours, with all major powers."

 Africans continue to obey the commands of other peoples and nations telling them what to do.  Colonial governments once spread hatred amongst peoples to ensure groups did not unite to topple the colonial order, and the embers of their voices are today fanned by corrupt politicians who need ethnic solidarity to fill their personal and party coffers. This is one of the reasons foreign powers can so easily enter Africa and exploit its people. The energy that Africans should be investing to build up the continent together is being spent tearing one another down. It makes Africans cheat themselves and their fellow workers through bribery and corruption.

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