NAIROBI – Japanese and African leaders pledged to fight terrorism and emphasized the importance of rules-based maritime order as they wrapped up a Japan-led international conference on the continent’s development.
In the Nairobi Declaration adopted at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) on Sunday, the leaders also agreed to promote investment in infrastructure that leads to job creation in the fast-growing region.
“Japan’s public and private sectors will offer cooperation for the development that is led by Africa itself,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a news conference after wrapping up the sixth TICAD, which was held this time in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the same news conference that Japan does not press its own views on the continent and continues to be a force for African development.
The triennial conference was held outside Japan for the first time, as Tokyo seeks to strengthen its economic and political presence in the continent amid China’s increasing influence.
When the conference opened Saturday, Abe pledged that Japan will mobilize $30 billion in private- and public-sector funds to invest in Africa over three years to boost infrastructure-building on the resource-rich continent.
“We stress the importance of promoting regional and international efforts related to maritime security, including piracy, illegal fishing and other maritime crimes, maintaining a rules-based maritime order in accordance with the principles of international law,” the Nairobi Declaration said.
The reference to maritime security comes as tensions remain high in the South China and East China seas amid China’s growing assertiveness there. Japan has repeatedly called for the rule of law and opposed the use of force or coercion in maintaining maritime security.
The declaration also reconfirmed efforts to reform the U.N. Security Council, currently comprising five permanent veto-wielding members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and 10 elected members that serve two-year terms.
Africa is vital for Japan in its bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council. There are 54 countries on the continent, making up a large voting bloc among the world body’s 193 members.
Japan hopes to distinguish its aid in the region from that of China through the promotion of “quality infrastructure,” Japanese officials said.
“We will promote investment in quality infrastructure which leads to job creation and transfer of expertise and know-how, as well as to capacity building of African countries and people,” the declaration said.
In the discussions at TICAD, Abe called on his African counterparts to take measures to create a favorable business environment in terms of safety and legal matters so that Japanese investments in the region can be promoted.
On terrorism, the declaration said: “We strongly condemn terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomever committed. … We call for enhanced international cooperation in strengthening counterterrorism capacity in Africa.”
Abe was accompanied by around 200 officials from more than 70 Japanese companies during his trip to Nairobi, the first official visit by a Japanese prime minister in 15 years.
Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of Keidanren, the country’s most influential business lobby, also took part.
Noting that Africa faces challenges such as terrorism, infectious diseases and falling commodities prices, the Japanese and African leaders also vowed in the Nairobi Declaration to make efforts to create jobs for young people and women, promote structural reforms to diversify industries and enhance health care systems to improve the quality of life.