Business / Economy | TICAD 7 Special

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Deepening Africa-Japan relationship with trust

by Shinichi Kitaoka

President, Japan International Cooperation Agency

With abundant natural resources and a rapidly growing population, the African continent has much potential for growth. By 2050, it is expected that the African continent will foster one-fourth of the global population. Although Africa is currently facing challenges and difficulties in some countries such as political instability and economic stagnation, I believe that Africa will successfully manage them to develop and become the growth center of the global economy in the coming decades.

From Aug. 28 to 30, Japan is going to host The Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) in Yokohama. TICAD is a summit-level international conference on Africa’s development initiated by Japan in 1993, and co-organized by the United Nations, United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the African Union Commission.

TICAD 7 will focus on three agendas.

The first is economic transformation and improvements in the business environment and institutions through private investment and innovation. Second is the promotion of a resilient and sustainable society for human security, while the third is peace and stability. All African heads of state and government, international organizations, partner countries, private companies, researchers and many non-governmental organizations are invited to discuss development initiatives for Africa from various perspectives.

Through meetings with many African leaders and at TICAD VI held in Nairobi in 2016, I strongly felt that their ownership for development is firmly rising. For example, Rwanda, under the strong leadership of President Paul Kagame, has been realizing miraculous reforms in various challenging fields, such as societal stability, the development of health and education and improvement in business environments. It is estimated by a World Bank report that the business environment of Rwanda ranks near the top among African countries, ahead of Japan, in the “ease of doing business” category.

I believe we can deliver significant developments in various fields for Africa’s sustainable growth if we further catalyze private investments with an open and innovative mind by respecting the ownership of Africa’s partner countries. In this regard, TICAD 7 is a good opportunity to deepen the Africa-Japan relationship with trust.

To facilitate the development of African countries, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is enhancing its cooperation with a focus on two missions — human security and quality growth.

Since all human beings have the right to live with dignity, the international community must uphold this right. It is the core essence of our first mission of human security. To ensure human security in Africa, we need to tackle a broad range of issues such as refugees, health, nutrition and education.

I would like to present a few examples of our endeavors in this field in Africa. The first example concerns refugee-related programs in northern Uganda. In the west Nile sub-region where more than 700,000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan, are settled, JICA has been cooperating for the capacity building of host districts in terms of planning and budgeting development programs, and the development of key infrastructure. JICA has also supported refugees in attaining livelihood skills such as rice cultivation to help them live independently with dignity, even in a protracted situation of displacement.

Another good practice for human security in Africa is a unique initiative in health and nutrition. JICA launched the Initiative to Improve Food and Nutrition in Africa at TICAD VI in collaboration with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. This aims to broaden partnerships among African countries and development partners to promote collective actions for nutrition in Africa. It promotes formulating a cross-sectoral nutrition improvement strategy and focuses on reducing the number of undernourished and stunted children.

Education is another essential aspect of human security. The School for All program aims at promoting community participation in the management of primary schools to raise awareness among parents and community leaders regarding the importance of education and encouraging them to send their children to school. Started in 2004, we are expanding this model to schools in Madagascar. Under this program, schools are providing meals, with help from local communities, to improve attendance and schoolchildren’s nutrition.

Our second mission is to realize quality growth, which aims at sustainable and inclusive growth. To accelerate quality growth, JICA is focusing on advancing regional connectivity in terms of promoting trade and logistics and strengthening human networks.

For instance, JICA has been promoting corridor development in three African regions, including the Northern Corridor (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and others); the Nacala Corridor (Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and other countries); and the West Africa Growth Ring (Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso). These initiatives are building cross-border transport infrastructure networks, facilitating intraregional trade and promoting development at the subregional level. JICA has also been supporting the establishment of 14 one-stop border posts (OSBP) in 11 countries. In this system, neighboring countries jointly conduct cross-border procedures, such as customs, immigration and quarantine at OSBP facilities to reduce time and cost.

To strengthen human networks between Africa and Japan, JICA has, over five years, offered opportunities for more than 1,200 young Africans to study master’s courses at Japanese universities and participate in internships at Japanese enterprises through the Africa Business Education (ABE) Initiative. JICA also follows up on ABE Initiative graduates to help them start their own businesses and drive Japanese companies expanding business in their home countries. This initiative also contributes to build networks among participants for sharing their experiences in Japan, as well as continuing partnerships with Japanese people as “navigators” to attract more investments to Africa from Japan.

JICA will foster these activities to accelerate quality growth in Africa to ensure human security for all Africans and to achieve African sustainable development goals.

JICA is devoted to and will continue to deepen its development cooperation with Africa through mutual dialogue. Moreover, I am sure that development in Africa will become a driving force for development of the entire world. Profound partnerships and mutual trust with African partners will lead both Africa and Japan to further growth. There is nothing else to realize as “leading the world with trust” is JICA’s vision.


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