Japan hails trade fair to boost Africa investment

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YOKOHAMA: A trade fair aimed at boosting paltry levels of Japanese investment in Africa and increasing commercial ties was Sunday hailed as a success, with hundreds of contacts made.

Japanese businesses invested $1.1 billion in the continent last year, accounting for less than 1.5 percent of the total foreign investment of the world s second largest economy, according to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

The African Fair, held on the sidelines of a three-day summit with 51 African nations, attracted more than 46,000 visitors, a JETRO official said.

During the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), in which forty African heads of state took part, African leaders said they needed investment rather than charity.

In a bid to ramp up trade, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Japan was setting up a $2.5 billion fund to offer loan guarantees to Japanese firms doing business in Africa, thereby reducing their risk.

Trade Minister Akira Amari said Japan aimed to double investment in Africa within five years.

Kimihiko Inaba, the head of the trade fair division at JETRO, said the fair was a huge success.

There were about 1,300 business negotiations between Japanese and African companies, in which at least 23 deals were agreed and about 350 negotiations are likely to reach some kind of business agreement, he said.

Most of the business contracts agreed concerned importing primary products and processed foods from Africa, but some manufacturers and consulting firms based in Japan also showed interest in investing in Africa, he said.

Japan, which has few natural resources, has been increasingly concerned as China and its state-run firms secure access to Africa s natural assets such as minerals and oil.

Madwari Mafimbo, 51, a retailer from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said I m glad to have this opportunity to see lots of Japanese businessmen. We hope to export more and more products from Congo to Japan, he said. -AFP

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