Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Japanese capital will host an International Conference on African Development on 1-3 June, organised by the government of Shinzo Abe.
More than 50 African leaders will attend the meeting, which is held every five years and is one of the biggest events on its kind.
Japan's prime minister is expected to meet personally at least 40 leaders, in order to enhance his country's trade with the continent hitherto dominated by the Chinese.
Africa's economic growth is luring Japanese exporters, and Tokyo wants to tap into the continent's vast natural gas and oil reserves after the 2011 Fukushima disaster led to the closing of its nuclear plants.
So far, China has taken advantage of the continent's potential with its companies fuelling China-Africa trade to the tune of US$ 138.6 billion in 2011, nearly five times Japan's commerce with the continent, this according to Foreign Ministry data.
Currently, Japan buys metals and energy from Africa and exports vehicles and machinery. Now the government wants to buy rare earths to end its dependence on China, the world's leading supplier of these minerals, and is willing to offer assistance in the high-tech sector, especially to South Africa.
However, as it battles a major economic crisis, Japan has been focused on domestic affairs. Since coming to power six months ago, Shinzo Abe has in fact not visited a single African country. By comparison, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who took office in March, has already visited Tanzania and the Republic of Congo, reiterating a pledge for US$ 20 billion in loans.
At the three-day summit, Shinzo Abe will reiterate an early pledge on agricultural development projects and technical training in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as help to enhance maritime security off the coast of Somalia.