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Japan PM warns Africa about debt as China grows presence

The comment came as Shinzo Abe aims to boost Japan's presence in the promising African market but many businesses are wary of financial and other risks.

FILE: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures as he answers questions during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo on 25 September 2017. Picture: AFP.

YOKOHAMA, Japan - Japan's prime minister on Thursday warned African leaders against accumulating too much debt, in an apparent reference to Chinese infrastructure projects that some blame for damaging the finances of developing nations.

Addressing leaders from several African nations at a development conference in Yokohama, Shinzo Abe stressed that Tokyo was promoting "quality" infrastructure exports and investments, supported by Japan's government-backed institutions.

"What should the government do to encourage (entrepreneurs) to exercise their skills?," Abe asked the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).

"If partner countries are deeply in debt, it interferes with everyone's efforts to enter the market," he said, introducing financing and insurance schemes by Japan's government-baked institutions aimed at reducing risks to businesses and public coffers.

He also announced that Japan plans to train experts in 30 African countries in next three years on managing risks and public debts.

The comment came as Abe aims to boost Japan's presence in the promising African market but many businesses are wary of financial and other risks.

But China, with its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, now enjoys a massive presence in the continent, having announced $60 billion in development funding for Africa last year.

The Chinese efforts, however, have faced criticism for favouring Chinese companies and workers over local economies, saddling nations with debts and ignoring rights and environmental issues.

Japan stresses that its loans and projects come with fewer strings attached and with sound financial advice and support.

Since 1993, Japan has partnered with African countries to hold the TICAD conference around every five years in a drive to promote aid and business opportunities.

Japan, with its own government funding problems, has struggled to increase its foreign aid money.

It has shifted its focus on encouraging the private sector to invest in Africa.

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