Working Paper
Japan’s National Economic Identity and African Development

Japan has emerged in recent years as a leading donor country to African countries. At one level, Japan’s renewed assertiveness in providing foreign aid to Africa is on par with the more active approach by other donor countries. Some might argue that Japan’s motivations to lend capital and technical assistance to African countries are shared by all lending countries. However, I argue that Japan’s official development policy and, in particular, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process, seek to break away from the acceptance of the Washington consensus and to demonstrate Japan’s particular leadership position in the donor community. Rather than to focus on domestic bureaucratic politics to explain Japanese ODA or on the specific targets of foreign aid, this paper seeks to identify the basic features of Japanese national identity that explain its aid policy to Africa. These features will be highlighted through an analysis of the TICAD process. Taken as a whole, the TICAD process represents the Japanese government’s response to perceived inroads by globalization and neoliberal economic ideology. But TICAD is more than a simple response to complex global forces. Japan’s foreign aid policy draws extensively from the so-called Asian development model as Japan hopes to influence African societies. Moreover, by carving out a developmental niche away from the conventional World Bank pattern of financial assistance, Japan also hopes to highlight its global strategic position as it seeks to have greater influence in Africa and other developing regions.