After years of watching Chinese-financed infrastructure blossom across Africa, Japan is finally getting in the game. At the 2016 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), the Japanese government reportedly pledged $30 billion in financing, including $10 billion for infrastructure loans. To be sure, the amount Japan pledged is much less than what China offers. The Diplomat reported that in 2018 alone, China pledged $60 billion in aid and loans. However, having an additional choice is good for African countries in need of infrastructural development.
That additional choice is particularly welcome today, given the increasing suspicions toward Chinese financing. As I argued in a 2017 article for The Diplomat, massive Chinese loans for building infrastructure saddle African countries with unsustainable debt. The resulting “debt traps” threaten African countries’ very sovereignty as they face the potential of ceding strategic assets to China as a form of debt repayment. African countries should think twice about taking up additional loans from China after witnessing Sri Lanka ceding a port and previously enthusiastic loan-takers like Malaysia and Pakistan distancing themselves from China-financed infrastructure projects.