New Asian Approaches to Africa: Rivalries and Collaborations, edited by Takuo Iwata

In: African and Asian Studies
Seifudein Adem Professor of Global Studies, Graduate School of Global Studies, Department of Global Studies, Doshisha University Kyoto Japan

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Takuo Iwata, Editor. 2020. New Asian Approaches to Africa: Rivalries and Collaborations. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press.,. Pp. 269;, Price: $55.95. ISBN: 10-1622738098/13-778-1622738090

As far as the main objective goes, Takuo Iwata’s New Asian Approaches to Africa: Rivalries and Collaborations seeks to provide an Asian perspective on the unfolding relationship between Asia’s major powers and Africa in the opening decades of the 21st century. It is, therefore, fitting that all but two of the authors of the wide-ranging essays in this book are Asians. The emphasis is on the dynamism of Asia’s ‘international cooperation’ with Africa, a dynamism that is rooted in the rapid and major transformation of power configuration globally – and particularly in Asia itself.

The introductory chapter, by Editor Takuo Iwata, a Professor at the College of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University, Japan, explores briefly what is new in the ‘new’ Asian approaches to Africa by Asia’s key actors: governments, firms, NGO’s and individuals, primarily, from China, Japan, Korea and India. The analysis is organized around the themes of an Asian country plus Africa summits (Japan plus Africa, China plus Africa and so forth); culture and diplomacy; and Belt and Road Initiative. The editor highlights the emerging rivalries as well as collaborations and concludes that “there is significant room for Asian countries to work together at least in cooperation in/with Africa …” (p. xv).

Chapter 1, by Yu-Shan Wu, provides a sharply focused and concise account of the evolution and development of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and related issues. Chapter 2, by Aparrajita Biswas, begins by describing the historical ties between Africa and India. She then recounts the role of Gandhi and Nehru in the history of Indo-African relations and proceeds to examine closely India-Africa Forum Summit that began in 2008. Hyo-Sook Kim analyses in Chapter 3 South Korea’s relations by zooming in on Korea-Africa Forum with Africa from the perspective of ‘middle power diplomacy’. Motoko Takahashi’s Chapter 4 is about, among other things, how the focus of the Tokyo International Conference on African development shifted from “African Development” in 1993 to “the pursuit of Japanese interest” in 2019.

Yongkyu Chang’s Chapter 5 is a general discussion of the major elements of South Korea’s soft power in the context of the nation’s cultural engagement with some African countries. Chapter 6 by Huaqiong Pan is a fairly comprehensive and focused analysis of the current state and future of Chinese tourism in Africa. In Chapter 7, Takuo Iwata discusses Japan’s soft power in Africa by singling out the concepts of human security, “One Village, One Product” and Kaizen. Pedro Carvalho’s Chapter 8 deals with the triangular relations among Japan, Brazil and Mozambique. Scarlett Cornelissen’s Chapter 9 concerns itself with the historical and contemporary features of Japanese firms in Africa. Chapter 10, the last chapter of the book, by Masumi Owa examines, with illustrative reference to Uganda, how non-OECD countries influence the aid architecture established by OECD countries.

The book does not include a separate list of contributors as it is customary in edited volumes of this nature; perhaps, in itself, it is a reflection of the (Asian) culture of avoiding the spotlight, but it does integrate brief bio-sketches of each author into the introductory chapter, illustrating that they are seasoned analysts in their respective areas of specialization.

Readers are to learn from New Asian Approaches to Africa: Rivalries and Collaborations that Asia and Africa are, certainly, the two largest, most populous and, possibly, oldest continents on planet earth. Both continents also have certain features in common. It is, therefore, very encouraging to see scholars closely scrutinizing from different angles and perspectives what is distinctive about Asia-Africa relations. In my opinion, this is one of the best books on the subject, written in the English Language, to come out of Africa’s sister continent (Asia). It is, indeed, quite thoroughly produced.

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