The government will ask China to join in Japan’s development projects in Africa, expecting to secure Beijing’s influence to deter North Korean nuclear and missile programs, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
This is the first time for the government to make such an offer to China on the Japan-funded projects in Africa, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official. Chinese President Xi Jinping touts the “One Belt, One Road” initiative in which he plans to establish a mega economic zone stretching from Asia to Africa. The government expects, by showing a cooperative stance toward the initiative, that China will make more effort on the North Korean issue.
Four projects that the government is considering for Chinese participation are: the “Growth Ring” plan to link West African nations via main roads; the development and improvement of roads and bridges in Kenya; the development and improvement of the “International Corridor” road that connects cities in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo; and road improvement in Rwanda.
The “Growth Ring” project is to jointly loop the 3,200-kilometer road running north to south, linking Burkina Faso with Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, and the 1,000-kilometer road stretching east to west, connecting five countries from Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire.
The project is expected to create a new economic bloc by connecting Nigeria, which has a relatively large economy, with other countries in the region.
The Japanese government has decided to provide about ¥31.5 billion in loans and grant aids, and will announce concrete plans as early as January.
Improving Kenya’s traffic system is part of the development assistance for Mombasa Port, which serves as an international trade hub in the eastern region of the continent. Japan has dominated the work for the port’s development project, but now hopes to divide responsibilities with China on the ¥59 billion project to develop and improve a road and a bridge that will connect the port with the nearby area.
For the “International Corridor” project and the road work in Rwanda, Japan will partially finance them and encourage Chinese entities to take part in the projects.
Africa is expected to see explosive population growth and is deemed to be the last mega market. China and some other countries have been in fierce competition to aid the continent.
Japan has so far limited contractors of aid projects only to Japanese companies and avoided proactively inviting Chinese entities to make bids for the projects.
The government has shifted its policy, however, as it seeks to use economic cooperation as leverage to demand China take further action in relation to the North Korean issue. The U.N. Security Council adopted sanctions resolutions against North Korea and imposed an export limit on refined petroleum products to the country, but North Korea has smuggled oil products and other items via ship-to-ship transfers in open seas. Some reports suggest a China-flagged vessel’s involvement in the illicit trade.