A Japanese prime minister paying a visit to Africa is a novelty in itself and that novelty was one of the main reasons behind the mass media attention Japanese premier Shinzo Abe’s recent tour of Africa received.
But Abe, who has already distinguished himself from previous Japanese leaders for a variety of reasons, also chose to tour Africa at a most opportune time for his country, and his government’s careful selection of three African countries—Cote D’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia—underscores the tactical and long-term approach that Japan is taking toward Africa, one with a view to forming deep ties that ultimately, will benefit all parties involved.
“Cote D’Ivoire is the gateway to Francophone West Africa, so the fact that it was included on Abe’s agenda has made it clear that Japan believes the consumer market there is worth exploring for Japanese companies to form business ties,” said Peter Thoms, founder and portfolio manager of investment management firm Africa Capital Group. “It’s been estimated that there’s around 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the coast of Mozambique and southern Tanzania, and because of the Fukushima disaster and Japanese nuclear plants coming off line, Japan is the largest importer of liquefied natural gas, for which they are very reliant on the Middle East. So Mozambique makes good sense for Japan.”
Finally, Abe’s visit to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and the new African Union Building there is “more of a diplomatic entrée into Africa,” Thoms said, one that acknowledges Africa’s growing importance in the global economy.
It also goes without saying that for Sub-Saharan Africa, capturing Japan’s attention is a huge positive.