Japan's aid to Africa has been a hot topic recently. News on the country's plans to double the amount of money given to the continent hit the headlines earlier this month, and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development held on the 28th has thrust the issue further into the limelight.
The overall mood was one of a fundraiser, as various African countries made pleas for investment in their economy. The Mainichi quoted two countries, Cape Verde with the complaint that they lack access to the world market, and Burundi lamenting about the numerous limitations on fundraising. Yet while other news sources, such as Asahi and Nikkei tend to center their coverage on investment towards stopping hunger and food shortages, some English media take a long look at the other side of the coin.
Africa has been singled out as the next big area of economic growth after China and India came into their own within the past few years. Similar to China, Africa's big selling point is its abundance of natural resources, something Japanese investors are particularly interested in. The Economist documents Japan's growing awareness of the competition for resources in the continent, as the two aforementioned newcomers have already demonstrated significant interest with their own African summits.
And the numbers are in favor of an economic boom in the region, with the GDP of the continent up 6% in 2007. But while some publications quote Robert Zoelleck, president of the World Bank, as saying he believes "Africa could become a new pole of growth as there was a new generation of leaders and encouraging signs, such as better nutrition, more schools, maternal health and a narrowing gender gap," this is a perhaps undeservedly positive outlook.
Riding the recent "Africa boom," several television stations have been broadcasting documentaries on the conditions on the continent, and they don't paint a pretty picture for Japanese viewers. One of the most moving is NHK's BS Documentary Series "Africa 2008." Depicting countries such as Rwanda and South Africa, viewers are taught about not only the poverty in the region, but also social inequality, governmental corruption, and human rights violations. With images such as these flooding the airwaves, and dubious guarantee that the proposed investment in Africa would realistically contribute towards poverty reduction in these increasingly corrupt and socially stratified countries, how strong will support from the Japanese people be?
Other posts by Sarah: