August 28, 2019 / 12:14 PM / 19 days ago

Japan to drive Africa investment with enhanced trade insurance -Abe

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will offer enhanced trade insurance to boost private sector investment in Africa, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday as his country competes with rival China for influence in the resource-rich continent.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso pose for a photo with African Union chairperson and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, other leaders of African nations and representatives of international organisations during the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan August 28, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

“Let me make a promise,” Abe told the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) attended by a few dozen African leaders and representatives of international organisations such as the World Bank.

“The Japanese government will do its utmost so that our private-sector investment in Africa, which came to $20 billion over the past three years, will be expanded continuously,” Abe added.

The enhanced insurance would fully cover loans to African governments, their affiliated institutions or private companies buying Japanese goods for infrastructure projects in Africa, according to government briefing materials and a state-run firm offering trade insurance.

“For example, our cooperation with local financial institutions will create a new trade insurance that could cover 100% of your transactions,” Abe said in his speech.

He did not make a major funding announcement at the Tokyo meeting.

At the last TICAD conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 2016, Japan pledged $30 billion in public and private support for infrastructure development, education and healthcare in Africa over three years.

Foreign investment in sub-Saharan Africa rose 13% last year to $32 billion, bucking a global downward trend and reversing two years of decline, according to a United Nations report published in June. [nL8N23K3T7]

Last September at a summit with African leaders in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion in financing for Africa and wrote off some debt for the continent’s poorer nations. [nL3N1VP28R]

Western critics say the Chinese funding is saddling the continent with unsustainable debt, but Beijing denies it is engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy. [nL3N1VQ2CD]

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by Darren Schuettler

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