Japan has promised financial assistance to resource-rich African nations totalling $32 billion (R357bn) for investment in infrastructure and mineral resource development, along with education, health care and human resource development, in its bid to cement relations with the continent.
Yesterday Japan’s vice-minister of economy, trade and industry, Yoshihiko Isozaki, unveiled “Japan’s new assistance package for Africa”, amid stiff competition for the continent’s mineral resources from China.
Isozaki said the continent was the “starting point” of the supply chain for the minerals Japan needed to produce cars and electronic appliances.
Japan has only one operating gold mine and relies on imports for 100 percent of the basic and minor metals it needs in car manufacturing. Without security of supply for these metals, it stands to lose a large part of its global market share in hybrid cars, for example. It has 94 percent of that market.
“If the supply of material deposits from African countries is stopped, we will have to suspend production of those cars and electrical appliances,” Isozaki said.
He announced that the new assistance package would see Japan’s public and private sector invest $32bn in infrastructure, human and mineral resource development in Africa over the next five years.
Some $2bn of this would come from Japanese government-affiliated agencies and go towards accelerating resource development projects, in line with its government’s pledge during the Japan-Africa ministerial meeting last year.
Financial assistance for infrastructure alone would amount to $6.5bn. This includes investments in the development of corridor projects and improvements to power generation equipment.
Some of the Japanese investments in local mining include stakes in Assmang, Kudumane Manganese Resources and exploration joint ventures of the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec).
In South Africa, Jogmec – which is a Japanese government-affiliated resource development agency – is part of the platinum group metals joint venture in the Waterberg.
Yesterday Isozaki said the Japanese government had decided to expand Jogmec’s joint venture exploration projects, not only in South Africa but throughout the continent.
He told African delegates that Japanese firms were committed to mining development projects and would not give up in the middle of a project.
Last year Japan held its fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development conference to promote high-level policy dialogue with African nations. It was during this conference that the Japanese government expressed its intention to support African development by using the country’s public and private funding sources.
Isozaki said the financial assistance over the next five years would also support human resource development by providing graduate study opportunities for 1 000 African students in Japan in the period.
These students would learn about Japan’s hi-tech environmental protection equipment and safety techniques so that these could be transferred to African mining operations.