During the Cold War, Africa felt the heat. During that time, the Western blocks and the Eastern blocks showed their supremacy not by fighting among themselves but by fighting for territory in Africa.
The blocks of that time fought for different ideologies in Africa; communism and capitalism. They also fought real wars in Africa. For instance, Western powers would go to Democratic Republic of Congo, arm a rebel group and the Eastern powers would also go in the same country and arm another rebel group or the government and the groups would fight. In real sense, it would not be that country fighting but Western powers and the Eastern powers fighting in black skins.
But times have now changed. The blocks are no longer fighting physically but economically. Though the blocks long disintegrated, the individual countries like the United States of America, Japan and China still hold the same ideologies and are pushing them hard in the developing world; Africa. The economic scramble for Africa by the developed world is at its top notch. There are three countries that seem to be more interested in Africa; United States of America, China and Japan.
For the first time in history, Japan seems to be more focused in Africa than ever before. The economically empowered nation, the second after China on the Asian side, held its first ever Tokyo International Conference on Development away from Japan. The conference was held in Nairobi Kenya and already, the goodies on the economic plate are visible. Japan and China seem to be engaged in an economic scramble for Africa and in this case Kenya.
Read: Role of Talent in the Kenyan Economy- Cytonn Report
Japan is more visible in Kenya than other brands from the Asian side all the way from vehicles to electronics. Comparing Japan and China, Japan is more trusted that China. Many people in Kenya consider products from China as substandard and ones that never last.
The presence of Japanese products in Kenya is not an issue but the number of projects that Japan is trying to fund in Kenya is the issue here. In the infrastructural side in Kenya, Japan is funding the construction of Ngong’ Road, rehabilitating the Port of Mombasa, investing in the Geothermal sector as well as investing in the water projects around the country.
Japan is more visible in Kenya through various projects that have been initiated under JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency.
To improve transport and infrastructure within Nairobi, the projects include:
For other infrastructural projects, JICA is taking part in:
JICA is also taking part in a program to strengthen the power supply capacity of Kenya through support to power plants and domestic transmission lines. It is also to strengthen international transmission lines to realize the Power Pooling Initiative in East Africa.
On Sunday, a total of 73 Memorandum of Understanding had been signed between Kenya and Japan for Africa. In these MOUs, the government of Japan pledged one trillion shillings for such projects as infrastructure, ICT, Education, mining, agriculture among other sectors. An additional of three trillion shillings were to come from the Japanese private sector. A total of 22 companies from Japan signed the MOUs.
“The Government of Kenya is ready and willing to support partnerships that will ensure that our youth not only get quality jobs but our farmers can earn more from their sweat and at least 90% of their agricultural exports are processed locally,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Read: First Phase of Expansion Work on Ngong Road Unveiled
China’s presence in Africa in the past has been in terms of products. Just like Japan, most products on the Kenyan market, especially electronics, come from China. In the recent past, China has become more involved in the economic activities of Kenya mostly in the mining and the infrastructural sector. Chinese are the ones who constructed the Thika Super Highway at a cost of 360 million US Dollars. Another mega project that China is taking part in is the Standard Gauge Railway, (SGR) at the cost of 14.1 billion US Dollars. The Chinese also constructed the Nairobi University Towers that is within the institution and the Chinese are also taking part in the housing projects for the military in Kenya. These are just but a few.
According to the Brink News Chinese interest in Africa arose from three needs: to establish a bilateral relationship as a growing power in its own right, to have access to energy and mineral resources and to establish itself as a champion of anti-colonialism. Beijing merely had to highlight the historical comparisons between colonialism in Africa and its own “Century of Shame,” during which it was subjugated and colonized by the West, to fulfill this last goal.
China and Japan Scramble for Africa (Kenya)
Japan, under an aggressive national policy, is continuing its ongoing competition with China by confronting the latter in Africa. In the latter half of 2010, Beijing blocked exports of rare earth ore to Japan, which is famously deficient in mineral resources. The Chinese embargo was perceived as a direct assault on a major segment of Japan’s industry, electronics, which uses most of these minerals. Tokyo, looking ahead, anticipated further embargoes on other Chinese imports and the loss of China as a manufacturing base if relations continued to worsen. Japan’s government had two objectives in turning to Africa: obtain the commodities Japan needed and compete with Chinese influence and Japan has now established embassies in 32 African countries and is generally viewed positively as quoted from Brink News.
China’s reason on the other hand for this investment in and trade with Africa isn’t purely altruistic. It faces a combination of slowing growth, rising labor costs and a declining workforce caused by a rapidly aging population. Africa, on the other hand, provides a growing young pool of low-cost labor and plentiful natural resources. Slowing growth creates excess inventories, which likely caused China’s largest steelmaker, Hebei Iron and Steel, to announce in late 2014 that it would shift five million tons, or around 11 percent of its annual production, to South Africa.
Read: SGR is a Win-Win Cooperation, not a Friendship with Kenya, says China
The scramble for Africa between Japan and China has both negative as well as positive aspects. On the positive side, Africa stands to gain economically. With the funds trickling in from both countries, Africa has a chance to use those funds for economic purposes. There is a Swahili saying that goes, wapiganapo fahali wawili, ziumiazo ni nyasi (when two bulls fight, the grass is the one that suffer) but in this case, it is different, as China and Japan fight for supremacy, African Countries are the one that will benefit.
On a negative aspect, however, the two countries might decide to start funding strives for their own benefit. This is unlikely to happen but according to some economic and political analysts, if the competition goes on, it may happen.
Comparing the perception of Africans (Kenyans) towards China and Japan, China has more negative perception than China. Many people see China as a country that produces prduts that do not last (fake) as compared to Japan. In terms of trust too, people trust Japan more than China. Japan also gives more grants as compared to China which gives more loans.
Some of the Kenyans online had the following to say:
China is like that sour ex who comes back to talk smack about your current. China should know Japan is more trustworthy than them.
— SokoAnalyst (@SokoAnalyst) August 30, 2016
Trusting Japanese or Chinese is liking trusting Hyena to a good friend of a goat
— Gitahi Ngunyi (@gitahi_ngunyi) August 30, 2016
The scramble for Africa continues. Japan and China are on a mission in Africa. Who will win and who will lose? Will Japan win? Will China win? Will they both lose?