The evolution of Japan-Africa relations through TICAD

The fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) will be held in Yokohama from June 1 to 3 to discuss various issues regarding the continent with political and business leaders from around the world.

For the past 20 years since TICAD I was held in 1993, the conference has evolved into a new phase as the African economy has grown rapidly during the period. Still, Africa faces challenges such as income disparity and political instability.

Ahead of the conference, The Japan Times organized a symposium to discuss TICAD, the situation in African regions and Japan-Africa relations, at the Tokyo headquarters of The Japan Times on March 1.

There were two parts to the symposium moderated by The Japan Times Executive Operating Officer and Managing Editor Takashi Kitazume. The first session discussed situations in Africa as a whole, and the second session focused on individual countries and regional blocs in Africa.

The first session was participated in by Mayor of Yokohama Fumiko Hayashi, Ambassador for TICAD V Makoto Ito of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zimbabwean Ambassador Stuart Comberbach, who is also dean of the African Diplomatic Corps (ADC), and Moroccan Ambassador Samir Arrour, who is also chairman of the ADC Trade and Investment Committee.

Excerpts of their discussion follow:

Moderator: Let’s start with a presentation by Ambassador Ito on how Japan can contribute and what the current situations and future challenges are, especially from the Japanese government’s viewpoint.

Ito: First, I would like to show the current picture of the African economy. The annual growth rate has surpassed 5 percent in recent years. Trading volume roughly quadrupled in the past decade on price hikes of natural resources. In 2007, foreign direct investment into Africa surpassed official development assistance (ODA). Africa is now the continent full of hope and opportunities and considered as an economic frontier after Asia.

Meanwhile, Africa faces challenges such as income disparity, overreliance on natural resource trading, infectious diseases, political instability and recurrent conflicts. International support is essential to tackle these issues.

TICAD advocates African ownership and the international community’s partnership. African countries, Japan, international organizations, donor countries, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations participate in TICAD to discuss various issues on Africa. TICAD V is co-organized by not only Japan, the United Nations, the World Bank and the U.N. Development Program, but also the African Union Commission, making it the first such TICAD and showing African ownership has become stronger.

In TICAD IV held in Yokohama in 2008, 51 countries, 23 donor countries, 62 international organizations and more than 30 private sector organizations participated. Participants numbered more than 3,000 people, including 41 country leaders from Africa.

Of the pledges made by Japan at TICAD IV to support Africa, the targets of doubling Japan’s ODA for Africa to $1.8 billion and also doubling Japan’s investment into Africa to $3.4 billion had been achieved by 2012. Japan’s investment into Africa was already $6.2 billion at the end of 2011.

Also, we have TICAD followup meetings at the ministerial level in Africa every year to assess whether pledges made at TICAD are achieved. Africa praises the followup meetings as models to improve accountability of Japan and other donor countries. We will continue to hold followup meetings after TICAD V.

TICAD V will show the world how to turn African growth into global growth and do other things to improve the quality of growth. Based on the three themes — “robust and sustainable economy,” “inclusive and resilient society” and “peace and stability” — TICAD V participants will comprehensively discuss and produce an action plan.

Concretely, we will discuss how to make infrastructures and train people to promote direct investment from the private sector. Also, the discussion will include safety for people and increasing women’s and youth’s roles in society. We will support Africa’s own efforts to establish peace and stability, which is the foundation of stable growth.

TICAD V will formulate an action plan including measures to be taken by the international community and Africa for the next five years.

Generally, Japan has high expectations for Africa. Africa’s growth is good for not only Africa but also the entire world, amid the unstable world economy after the so-called Lehman Shock.

Japan regards Africa as not only an aid recipient but also a consumer market and the destination of direct investment as a growth area. In fact, voices mount from the African side to expand the business of importing high-quality products from Japan while Japanese companies are increasingly interested in African businesses. We want to use TICAD V as an opportunity to expand business with Africa.

Many Africans praise the Japanese for their support of Africa. I hope TICAD V will be an opportunity for the world to reaffirm the goodness of Japan. Thus TICAD V will strengthen the win-win relationship between Japan and Africa.

Moderator: Thank you very much, Ambassador Ito. Now Mayor Hayashi, please give us the viewpoint of the host of TICAD V.

Hayashi: First of all, Japan began the first TICAD 20 years ago. Whoever came up with the idea, Japan then had an excellent view of the future, recognizing the future significance of Africa. Since Yokohama City hosted TICAD IV in 2008, the distance has shortened dramatically between Yokohama and Africa.

Because a municipal government is close to businesses, I believe we should build a relationship as a partner to grow together and promote concrete exchanges.

We hold various events for local Yokohama companies to get to know about Africa and vice versa. For example, we held African business seminars in collaboration with JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) in June.

Yokohama City has conducted several programs in the past year to provide the latest information about African businesses to citizens and local companies.

In one of those programs, the ninth International Symposium on Water Supply Technology in Yokohama 2012 in November, we invited embassy officials in charge of economy from the African Diplomatic Corps and had Yokohama companies introduce their technology to the embassy officials. Thus we hold events for mutual information exchange.

On Feb. 26, Yokohama City held an Africa Business Seminar, again in collaboration with JICA and JETRO. The chief of JETRO Johannesburg and executives of companies doing business in Africa attended to discuss the current situation of African business. The seminar also featured methods to ensure the safety of employees in Africa. The available number of seats to attend, 70, was filled in just one day. It is an evidence of the strong level of interest in African business.

I heard, concurrently with TICAD V, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and JETRO will co-organize an African Fair in Yokohama from May 30 to June 2, for the first time in five years. It is one of the largest business events about Africa in Japan. The fair is about promoting trade between Japan and Africa and increasing investment in Africa by Japanese companies. African countries will have booths to display their products and information on their natural resources, infrastructures and investment opportunities. Yokohama City will have a booth to introduce local small and medium-size companies and the city’s various advanced projects.

In a monthly meeting of African diplomats in Tokyo, we were given an opportunity to make presentations about Yokohama’s international technological and business cooperation.

Since TICAD IV, we have accepted more and more people from Africa to give them training and business exchanges in water supply infrastructure, port management and animal breeding.

Yokohama City has also sent some officials to African countries for exchanges.

From now on, we will share knowhow on infrastructure building, waste reduction and other fields in which Yokohama City has strength in order to help Africa’s sustainable development.

With the theme, “Africa and Yokohama, Towards Mutual Growth,” we will build a partnership with Africa to grow together.

Moderator: Now we will turn to Zimbabwe Ambassador Comberbach and Moroccan Ambassador Arrour to talk about the African economy, prospects and challenges.

Comberbach: I must first of all pay compliments to Ms. Hayashi. Part of the undoubted success of TICAD IV, in 2008,
was due to the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to all our delegations by the people of Yokohama, as well as the administrative and other arrangements put in place by the city authorities. Everything was very well organized, and this certainly contributed toward a positive outcome to the conference. We are delighted that Yokohama will, once again, host the TICAD summit conference.

Ambassador Ito has spoken about tremendous growth in the African economy. In recent years, the growth rate has been over 5 percent, with some countries enjoying double or even triple that rate.

It is largely due to an increase in demand from Asia, so there is a synergetic relation between Asian growth and African growth. Africa is the second fastest growing economy after Asia.

Our hope is to keep this momentum going and to make positive contributions to the global economy.

Africa’s total GDP is about $1.3 trillion, and as African integration has progressed, the prospect of a very large market is increasing. This is attractive for producers of goods, such as Japan.

But we also have challenges. As Ambassador Ito pointed out correctly, there is a large disparity in incomes in virtually all our countries, an overreliance on the export of basic commodities, safety problems and instability in some areas. They are all interlinked.

We export raw materials and import finished products. We are a resource-rich continent and our major challenge, now, is to develop industries to process these raw materials and to process them into exportable, value-added products. That would not only help our economies grow but would also create demand for skilled workforces among our people.

We need to grow such value-added industries, but in order to get there, we need to improve our basic infrastructure — roads, railway, ports, communication systems and, most importantly, we need to ensure a stable supply of electricity to power such industries and the manufacture of value-added products.

This is where Japan can help Africa. Japan has already done a great deal through the TICAD process. The primary focus of TICAD IV was “Boosting Economic Growth,” the development of hard infrastructure to promote regional integration, and support for the private sector. Since TICAD IV, we have seen a steady growth in private sector investment from Japan. This is really what we hope to see continue and expand through TICAD V and beyond.

Japanese companies expect an increase in their business activities in Africa but many of them say Africa needs to do more to improve the business environment, and that the Japanese government needs to do more to support them (the Japanese private sector) in their activities across the continent. They have also indicated their wish to see the Japanese government give serious consideration to negotiating bilateral investment agreements and/or EPAs (economic partnership agreements), etc., with African countries. Our hope and expectation is that TICAD V will certainly facilitate progress in this direction.

Arrour: I would also like to thank the city of Yokohama for hosting TICAD and holding many events promoting exchanges between Yokohama and Africa. I also thank the government of Japan for organizing TICAD. I would also like to pay tribute to Ms. Hayashi for the continuous efforts she has been making to promote people-to-people diplomacy.

As Ambassador Comberbach already said, TICAD has contributed to mutual understanding between Japan and Africa and created business opportunities for companies in both parties.

We hope to collaborate in agriculture, water and renewable energy with Japan. Japan is one of the very first countries to take Africa as an economic partner.

I would just like to emphasize that thanks to resources put forward, the Japanese government promotes partnership between Japanese and African companies and now Africa is more visible for the private sector in Japan.

The sub-Saharan committee and the North African committee both work together to create synergy between Japanese companies and African companies. We want to see in the future not only partnership between governments but also companies. I want to see this as one of the babies born out of TICAD.

After all, we would like to promote human interaction.

Moderator: The two ambassadors said Africa needs to be industrialized and developed with better infrastructure. It is interesting that growth in the African economy is linked to that of Asia. Ambassador Comberbach mentioned the evolution of TICAD. How was TICAD IV different from the past TICAD?

Comberbach: TICAD IV was different in terms of the level of private sector engagement in the process. In TICAD meetings before that, the primary focus and principal themes revolved, for the most part, around the social development sectors — education, health, community development — essentially an MDG (U.N. Millennium Development Goals) focus. In their preparation for TICAD IV, however, the government of Japan consulted far more widely than it had previously done, and considerable emphasis was placed on seeking input and advice from the Japanese private sector, and on involving them more in the preparation and followup of the summit conference. Indeed, one of the first concrete outcomes after TICAD IV was the dispatch, to Africa, of three separate public/private sector trade and investment missions from Japan.

This reflected developments on the ground across the continent of Africa and, indeed, Africa’s changing priorities. Between TICAD III (2003) and TICAD IV (2008), Africa, under the coordinating leadership of the African Union and the eight regional economic communities, made significant progress in terms of regional and continental integration; and in terms of taking effective control of the definition of the overall African development agenda.

In short, Africa began to really get its act together: setting its own developmental priorities, drawing up its own continent-wide, sectoral-development blueprints and offering these as the basis for future engagement or cooperation with our development partners, including Japan.

In the past, and even up to today, TICAD has been a largely ODA-based process. Of course, we sincerely appreciate Japanese ODA support to our countries. It has been, and continues to be very effective. But, sustainable development and the evolution of TICAD into a mutually beneficial, strategic partnership between Africa and Japan will require even greater focus on the private sector and, also, a more strategic use of ODA to further promote and facilitate Japanese private sector activities in Africa.

Ito: I agree with Ambassador Comberbach. Up to TICAD III, the private sector was not very interested, but showed much interest in TICAD IV. The trend, of course, continues for the upcoming TICAD V.

Arrour: It goes without saying that Africa needs to develop technology and education. We have lots to learn from Japan, such as renewable and traditional energy, environmental technology, education and so on. We need to promote these sectors, especially human resource development in them.

Also, we need an industrial breakthrough in agriculture because agriculture accounts for the majority of workforces in Africa. Bio-agricultural technology may be one of the leading industries in Africa in the future.

From Yokohama we can learn some industries Yokohama has leadership in, such as the fisheries industry and port management. These two are of great interest to African countries.

Moderator: Mayor Hayashi, what do you think made a difference between TICAD IV and past TICAD meetings?

Hayashi: After TICAD IV, Yokohama City worked on making participant countries and companies interested in business exchanges.

For the upcoming TICAD, the private sector’s interest has been at the highest level ever and I believe time has ripened for TICAD V.

Yokohama City has held several seminars on African business in the past year and participating companies have been more and more bullish on entering Africa and expanding business in Africa.

Also, this is the first attempt at TICAD, but we will hold a meeting on working women at TICAD V. Speakers will include Malawi President Joyce Banda and a woman founder of an ice cream vendor in Rwanda.

These meetings will be open to participation by ordinary Japanese people, including Yokohama citizens. That is the wonderful part of it.

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