BY THE 1960S, JAPAN HAD EMERGED as one of the world's economic superpowers and it started to flex its diplomatic and soft power muscles, along similar lines adopted by the US and other Western nations as well as the USSR.
But while the West and the USSR, locked in the Cold War, vied for strategic control, Japan directed its efforts towards supporting economic growth, through its overseas development aid programme in its rapidly expanding markets first in Southeast Asia and from the 1960s, in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sea-change in attitude
There was a sea-change in attitudes towards Africa in the 1990s. It had become clear that the apartheid regime in South Africa was on its last legs and that independent Africa was not only a vital source of raw materials but potentially an economic partner.
The end of the Cold War had also brought about a sharp decline in international bilateral donor support for African countries. This turned out to be an opportunity for Japan to position itself as a genuine development partner willing and able to transfer technology and modern processes.
Japan's emphasis on partnership, in direct contrast to the often overbearingly prescriptive stance of Western aid donors, found a ready welcome in Africa. It was then a logical step to organise a summit level conference in Japan and this...