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Editorial: Japan PM’s diplomacy with Africa can build trust with lasting support – The Mainichi

In this Aug. 27, 2022, file photo provided by the Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida takes part in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development online in Tokyo.

The presence of emerging and developing countries in the area known as the Global South, which includes Africa, is increasing.

Against this backdrop, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently visited Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique. The aim of his trip was to hear directly from those nations and reflect their views in discussions during the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima. It was a timely visit.

Some 1.4 billion people live in the 54 countries of Africa, accounting for over one-sixth of the world’s population. The continent is blessed with natural resources and in recent years, startups have boosted the region’s growth. Yet at the same time it faces a mountain of issues, from war and political turmoil to poverty, climate change, a food crisis and infectious diseases.

Soaring food and energy prices resulting from the crisis in Ukraine have added to economic hardship. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told Kishida that the negative effects of this surpassed those of the coronavirus crisis.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a clear violation of international law. But African countries have drawn a line separating themselves from western countries and Japan, which have taken a tough stance toward Russia.

Just as Egypt relies on wheat imports, many countries in Africa have deep ties with Russia. They also have military connections, including through arms imports.

China, meanwhile, is Africa’s largest trading partner, and African countries have reaped the benefits of Beijing’s huge investments and aid. In recent years, its debt trap diplomacy, where China provides developing countries with loans exceeding their repayment capacity and then claims the rights to infrastructure, has become a problem, but Africa’s expectations still remain high.

Conversely, there remains deep-rooted distrust toward the West due to the history of European colonization of Africa and the way Africa was used during the Cold War.

Japan, however, has no “negative legacy” in Africa. There is significance in the fact that Tokyo is trying to serve as a bridge with the West.

In his series of meetings, Kishida underscored the importance of maintaining an international order based on the “rule of law.” He also confirmed that Japan would cooperate to address issues including soaring food and energy prices, and to stabilize the situation in Sudan.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which Japan started. As the influence of Russia and China grows stronger, Japan needs to continue to provide high-quality assistance over the long term in its own unique way, by cultivating human resources, for example. By working together to solve diverse issues, it should be possible to build a relationship of trust.

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