Maputo (AFP) - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is on his first visit to Africa, on Sunday pledged to boost ties with resource-rich Mozambique, signing a raft of agreements on key sectors including energy.
Mozambique is seen as Africa's emerging frontier for natural gas, with several offshore discoveries in recent years.
"The relationship that we have maintained with Mozambique has evolved over the years and there has been much progress," Abe said after meeting with his Mozambican counterpart President Armando Guebuza.
The Japanese prime minister, who was accompanied by a large delegation of business leaders, said Tokyo wanted to "broaden cooperation with Mozambique."
Abe mentioned natural gas, education and science and technology "as priority areas for future cooperation with Mozambique."
Agreements were also signed in the area of health care and construction. Despite its newfound resources, Mozambique still suffers from poor infrastructure development, a legacy of a brutal, nearly 16 year civil war that ended in 1992.
Mozambique has over the last year pumped money into the development of roads and rail routes, crucial for the import and export of goods.
Several Japanese firms have been involved in the development of natural gas fields and coal fields in Mozambique.
Abe's Africa tour also took him to Ivory Coast and his last stop will be Ethiopia next week.
Despite relatively longstanding connections, Japan?s importance to Africa has slipped behind that of China, with Beijing becoming in 2009 Africa's top trading partner at 13.5 percent, compared with Japan at 2.7 percent, according to the OECD.