The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan has more to do as Africa’s true partner

- AKIHIKO TANAKA Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

The eighth summit of the Tokyo Internatio­nal Conference on African Developmen­t (TICAD 8) will be held in the North African nation of Tunisia on Aug. 27-28. TICAD is a forum, co-organized by Japan, the United Nations, the U.N. Developmen­t Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the African Union Commission (AUC), to discuss the theme of developmen­t in Africa.

TICAD’s principal participan­ts are African countries rst and foremost. Even so, it is true that since its inception, the Japanese government has consistent­ly taken a leadership role in the multilater­al conference. In that sense, TICAD has been and will be an important diplomatic tool for Japan.

Its inaugural summit took place in Tokyo in 1993 with Japan hosting its ensuing editions every ve years through the h one in 2013. en, it was agreed that TICAD would be held every three years, alternatin­g between Africa and Japan. In 2016, Kenya hosted the rst TICAD summit in Africa — TICAD 6 in Nairobi. e upcoming TICAD 8 will thus be the second of its kind to be held in Africa.

e world has transforme­d greatly over the three decades since TICAD came into being in the 1990s. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the intensi cation of climate change, among other issues, might have been di cult to predict 30 years ago, but they are happening in reality.


Against such a background, it is important to rea rm the signi cance of TICAD to Japan. What meaning does Japan’s involvemen­t in African developmen­t have for the country?

e rst point of importance is the ongoing demographi­c trend in Africa, which is projected to experience the greatest population growth in the years ahead.

According to the United Nations’ latest estimates and projection­s of the global population, Africa’s total population is likely to reach 1.42 billion within this year, surpassing that of China. Moreover, in 2050 the African population is forecast to surge to 2.48 billion, far above that projected for India at 1.67 billion and China at 1.31 billion.

is demographi­c trend strongly suggests that Africa has the greatest potential in the world economy. For Japan, which is experienci­ng population contractio­n, Africa will undoubtedl­y increase its importance both as a destinatio­n for long-term investment and as a source of human resources the Japanese economy will require.

e second important point is the fact that the crises the world now faces weigh heavily upon Africa.

While the world has yet to rid itself of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, challengin­g the internatio­nal order. African countries have o cially announced

fewer cases of infection than Western nations. But the African data shows only the tip of the iceberg. e adverse e ects the pandemic has had on Africa’s health care systems are abysmal.

Economic stagnation caused by COVID-19 can create serious adverse e ects on Africa. Economical­ly vulnerable countries on the continent are experienci­ng serious retrogress­ion in many of their targets relating to the U.N. Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goals (SDGs).

In Africa, the percentage of people su ering from “extreme poverty” — living on less than $1.90 a day — had been on the decrease until the pandemic broke out. However, in 2020, an estimated 55 million people there were pushed back into extreme poverty. What is more, if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine keeps disrupting food and fertilizer supplies from these two countries in con ict, Africa is feared to face harsh food shortages.


Why should Japan now show proactive interest in Africa, which is plagued by multiple crises?

In response to Russia’s reckless aggression against Ukraine, many countries in the world have chosen to actively support the Ukrainians in distress. European countries are sharing a large proportion of assistance to Ukraine, despite the fact that Europe itself is su ering from the consequenc­es of the war in Ukraine, such as fuel price spikes.

Japan has also extended considerab­le amounts of emergency nancial and humanitari­an assistance to Ukraine. But Japan’s policy does not allow it to provide Ukraine with any military assistance. Is it not a fair division of labor for Japan to help other regions that are su ering from the negative impacts of the war in Ukraine?

Now that Africa, which has great potential in the long term, is faced with

di culties, TICAD 8 can be an opportunit­y to manifest that Japan is a true partner of Africa.

What is crucial in this regard is that Japan-Africa cooperatio­n should not be limited to short-term measures of crisis responses. Together with African countries and internatio­nal organizati­ons, Japan should explore a path of long-term developmen­t that fully realizes Africa’s great potential.

e keyword for this approach is the concept of “resilience.”

Once “resilience” is ingrained, it becomes possible to forestall a chain of crises and ensure “human security” in the event of a short-term crisis.

Today’s Africa, for instance, depends on imports for its main grain consumptio­n. Despite its abundant natural resources, its manufactur­ing sector has not yet been su ciently developed. Its fundamenta­l health care systems are still vulnerable, as evidenced by the high maternal and infant mortality rates there.

e past TICAD sessions have addressed those issues. For example, a project to double rice production in Africa in about 10 years has been progressin­g well. A program Japan originally launched in Kenya to help smallholde­r farmers improve productivi­ty is now being implemente­d in other African countries.

Likewise, the kaizen (deepening of quality and productivi­ty improvemen­t) campaign Japan initiated to help strengthen Ethiopia’s manufactur­ing sector has now been introduced into other African countries. e same holds for other Japanese endeavors in Africa, including the boshi-techo (maternal and child health handbook) promotion initiative and the kaizen practices program for hospitals.


During TICAD 8, Japan should

renew its efforts to persuade as many African countries as possible to exert themselves to build resilience.

ere is also a need to promote innovation to leapfrog in many aspects of developmen­t in Africa. Africa’s informatio­n and communicat­ion technology (ICT) infrastruc­ture remains less advanced. Still, in many parts of Africa, innovative ideas are beginning to be implemente­d to transform society. Africa is at the forefront of such innovation. Many ambitious African entreprene­urs joined a JICA hosted competitio­n awarding excellent startup businesses.

e role of the private sector has been emphasized in the TICAD process since TICAD 5 held in 2013. African leaders have been calling for “more investment than assistance.”

Global data shows that Africa-bound direct investment has been on the increase. Regrettabl­y, however, Japan’s corporate investment in Africa remains at low levels. is may re ect a lingering perception in Japan that Africa is too distant. Nonetheles­s, a close look at Africa’s potential makes it too compelling for Japan to keep turning its back on the continent.

When the world is crisis-stricken, risks associated with Africa may appear big. But, look at young African entreprene­urs setting up startups of their own. You can clearly see that the future developmen­t of Africa is budding among them.

Japan has been promoting a “free and open Indo-Paci c” vision. Africa is located at the western rim of that vast region. Today, the internatio­nal order is being hugely shaken and Africa is facing serious challenges. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Now is the time for Japan to demonstrat­e that it is a friend indeed of Africa.

TICAD 8 is the big stage for Japan and Africa to reinforce the friendship network between them. (Aug. 5)

TICAD 8 is the big stage for Japan and Africa to reinforce the friendship network between them.

Tanaka is president of the Japan Internatio­nal Cooperatio­n Agency (JICA), a post he took up in April for the second time after his first stint in that position in 2012-15. He served as president of the Tokyo-based National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) from 2017 to March 2022. Previously, he was vice president of the University of Tokyo from 2009 to 2012.

 ?? Yomiuri Shimbun file photo ?? The seventh Tokyo Internatio­nal Conference on African Developmen­t is held in Yokohama in August 2019.
Yomiuri Shimbun file photo The seventh Tokyo Internatio­nal Conference on African Developmen­t is held in Yokohama in August 2019.

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