Japan's Shinzo Abe hails Africa as 'growth centre'

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mali's Interim President Dioncounda Traore (3 June 2013) Shinzo Abe said Japan would help West African leaders tackle militant Islamists

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Africa will be an engine for world growth in the coming decades and Japan has to invest more on the continent, Japan's prime minister has said.

Shinzo Abe was speaking at the end of a three-day conference on African development in Yokohama.

Japan pledged $32bn (£21bn) in aid to Africa, including money to tackle militant Islamists.

Japan appears to be worried that its rival China has built a strong presence in Africa, correspondents say.

"Africa will be a growth centre over the next couple of decades until the middle of this century... now is the time for us to invest in Africa," Mr Abe said at the end of the conference co-hosted with the African Union (AU), World Bank and UN.

'Counter-terrorism'

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We hope to develop a win-win situation in our relationship”

End Quote Shinzo Abe Japan's MP

"Japan will not simply bring natural resources from Africa to Japan. We want to realise industrialisation in Africa that will generate employment and growth."

Critics repeatedly accuse China of simply making a grab for resources in Africa, but it denies the charge.

It says it has invested heavily in building infrastructure on the continent.

Japan's five-year aid package includes spending in the public and private sectors to create jobs and develop infrastructure.

"We hope to further support and continue to expand together with Africa. We hope to develop a win-win situation in our relationship,'' Mr Abe told a press conference.

About 1,000 Africans would be offered opportunities to study and work as interns in Japanese companies, AP news agency reports.

The aid package sets aside about $1bn to help stabilise the Sahel region, where al-Qaeda-linked militants have gained a foothold, AFP news agency reports.

Japan would also train some 2,000 people in counter-terrorism activities, it reports.

The five-yearly conference adopted a declaration pledging to promote trade, tourism and technology transfer.

It described the private sector as "a vital engine of growth" and said legal and regulatory frameworks should be improved in Africa to boost investments.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said it was important that the declaration be implemented "to the satisfaction of both sides".

Among other African leaders who attended the meeting were Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma.

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