Japan steps up charm offensive in Africa, third stop Kenya

Japan has embarked on a charm offensive of the African continent to woo investors in a move to wrestle the Western influence.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio made his two-day debut State visit to Kenya on Tuesday as he seeks to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries, which date back to independence since he took over office.

Kenya is viewed by Japan as the gateway and the regional hub in terms of being the largest Economic Zone in East and Central Africa.

As of last year, funding from Japan earmarked for projects under Infrastructure Department stood at KES 17.66 billion, with the Energy Ministry getting KES 9.17 billion) and the Treasury KES 2 billion, among others.

Former National Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani said then that the government was targeting KES 120.44 billion from rich countries at the start of the current financial year.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the premier is expected to discuss a wide range of topics, such as regional and international issues, including Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

“Prime Minister Kishida intends to show those countries (Kenya) Japan’s resolve to maintain and strengthen the international order based on the rule of law towards the G7 Hiroshima Summit and confirm further cooperation with them on various global issues,” the ministry stated.

The PM who kicked off his overseas tour end of last month, has visited Egypt, Ghana and departs from Nairobi today as he heads to Maputo, Mozambique and thereafter concluded his trip in Singapore where he will race the Japan-Singapore Summit.

In 2016, the late former PM Shinzo Abe held bilateral talks with retired president Uhuru Kenyatta at the State House on the sidelines of the inaugural African Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD) held in Nairobi.

The two leaders then discussed a range of issues, with Abe expressing hope to further strengthen cooperation in areas such as developing the Mombasa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reform.

On his part, President Kenyatta lauded Japan’s continuous support with Kenya’s economic and social development including Mombasa SEZ development and the energy sector.

Kenyatta stated that he hoped to continue to work together with Japan in the international arena including the UN reform.

Based on the reaffirmed diplomatic relations, Kenya’s development Cooperation with Japan was anchored in the Fifth Yokohama Action Plan and TICAD VI Nairobi Declaration as well as its implementation Plan.

Kenya’s commitment to sustaining its engagement with Japan along the TICAD framework was demonstrated by the country hosting the sixth TICAD Summit.

This was the very first time for the TICAD Conference to be held outside Japan since its inception in 1993.

As a result, Kenya participated in TICAD VII held in August 2019 in Yokahama, Japan, in a major way, headlining the government plans to co-host three major side events namely: Blue Economy side event, Pre-Nairobi ICPD 25 Summit side event and Diaspora side event.

The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1963 with resident diplomatic missions in their respective capitals at the Ambassadorial level.

Japan opened her Mission in Nairobi in 1964 and Kenya reciprocated in 1979.

The two countries mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Presently, Kenya hosts one of the largest Japanese communities in Africa of over 800 people and by 2018, there were over one hundred and four (104) Japanese companies operating in Kenya, with 54 having a physical presence.

Nairobi is the regional headquarters for Japan’s Cooperation Agencies namely JICA, JETRO and JBIC.

Kenya is also the leading recipient of Japanese Development Assistance (ODA) in Sub-Saharan Africa and its main focus is on technical assistance; grant aid; and concessional (ODA) loans.

The priority areas of bilateral cooperation are economic infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, and the environment.

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