Japan hosts development talks with African leaders this week, looking to boost its presence on the continent and offer an alternative to investments by an increasingly assertive China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants the latest round of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to help “launch impactful Japanese action” on the continent. And the meeting, held around every five years since 1993 in Japan or an African country, comes against the backdrop of expanding investment in China, which announced $60 billion in development funding for Africa last year. That figure is twice as much as Japan pledged at the last TICAD meeting in 2016. But analysts said Tokyo is unlikely to try to out-pledge China at this year’s talks, which start on Wednesday and run until Friday. It will seek instead to position itself as a partner of “quality”, offering high-impact loans and other assistance without the sometimes-controversial strings attached to money doled out by Beijing. Japan wants to drive Africa’s growth “with its high-quality infrastructure development, science technology and innovation”, Abe said recently. TICAD is a good opportunity for Japan to send a message about “its practical, well-planned lending”, said Sawaka Takazaki, deputy director of the Middle East and Africa division at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government-backed trade-promotion body. ‘Quiet’ diplomacy China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, which offers hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese financing for massive infrastructure projects, has been eagerly embraced in many parts of Africa….
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