Use Diplomacy to Strengthen Ties with Promising African Countries

The significance of deepening cooperation and building amicable relations with African countries with high potential is great. Japan should develop strategic diplomacy.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has visited four African countries — South Africa, Mozambique and Mauritius, which face the Indian Ocean, as well as Tunisia, which is close to Europe.

All of the countries he visited are located at important geopolitical points and there are high expectations for economic development. They will be valuable partners for Japan’s diplomacy in Africa.

Motegi confirmed cooperation for the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to be held in Tunisia in 2022 in a meeting with Tunisian President Kais Saied.

With a population of 1.3 billion, Africa is called the “last mega market.” Many African countries are experiencing rapid growth. It is hoped that the Japan-led conference will serve as an opportunity to encourage investment and trade by private companies and boost growth in Africa.

Tunisia transitioned to democracy after the collapse of its dictatorial regime during the Arab Spring of 2010-11. However, the country is said to be suffering economically due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and low crude oil prices.

An economic crisis could trigger social chaos in Tunisia. It is necessary to promote cooperation in the fields of medicine and health, as well as infrastructure development and other areas by utilizing Japan’s technological capabilities.

South Africa is the continent’s only member of the Group of 20 major economies (G20); Mozambique is rich in natural resources; and Mauritius has an established reputation as a business-friendly country, with financial institutions from various countries advancing there.

Japan should use its relations with these countries as a foothold to expand opportunities in other African countries. Collaborating with companies from Britain, France and other nations would also be effective.

Motegi stressed the importance of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision during his meetings with the leaders of the African countries he visited.

China, which has been promoting its Belt and Road Initiative to create a huge economic bloc, is increasing its influence in Africa. The rampant use of forceful methods that only prioritize the interests of its own companies while making its aid recipients incur excessive debts must not be allowed.

It is important for Japan to emphasize values such as democracy and the rule of law and promote communications with African countries.

Motegi, who has become the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Mauritius, expressed his intention to continue cooperating with the country from a medium- and long-term perspective during his trip to the country. The tourism-oriented nation has been severely affected by a heavy oil spill this summer caused by a cargo ship chartered by a Japanese company.

Japan must not spare the necessary support to Mauritius, including environmental restoration and economic cooperation. It should deal actively with the issue to ensure that the trust of the country in Japan is not undermined.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 15, 2020.