Japan is wooing African nations, promising 3.2 trillion yen ($32 billion) as government and private-sector aid to foster growth in a region that is increasingly an appealing market and business partner.

The package for the next five years, including 1.4 trillion yen ($14 billion) in government aid called ODA, or official development assistance, was announced at a three-day conference in Yokohama, near Tokyo, opening Saturday.

Japan is eager to catch up with neighboring Asian rival China, which has a big head start in courting Africa, investing heavily in infrastructure projects.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office late last year, is bullish about investing in and exporting to Africa.

He is holding meetings with officials from African nations, including Zimbabwe, Sudan and Kenya.