The recent Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) that drew 10 000 delegates to Nairobi, Kenya for its maiden summit on the continent sharply re-focussed the attention of the international community on the urgency of Africa’s development.
This sentiment was expressed in an interview on the sidelines of the two-day conference with Ned Sibeya, deputy chief of national development at the National Planning Commission, who was part of the Namibian delegation led by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
“The TICAD VI Declaration and its implementation plan are set to support African priorities, in line with Agenda 2063 and national development strategies. Through the TICAD VI Summit, Japan focused its cooperation with Africa on the areas of building quality infrastructure, developing human capacity and enhancing stability.
“Japan announced the future establishment of the Japan-Africa Public and Private Economic Forum, through which Namibia and the rest of Africa can benefit economically by enhancing trade and business cooperation,” Sibeya further elaborated.
The forum will meet once every three years in Africa, bringing together Japanese political and business leaders with their African counterparts to forge greater cooperation and find solutions for the future.
The Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development (TICAD) is a multilateral forum, according to Sibeya, that was launched in 1993 to re-focus the attention of the international community on the importance and urgency of Africa’s development, as well as to promote high-level policy dialogue between leaders of the resource-rich continent and external partners, such as Japan.
He said at the preceding TICAD V Conference that was held in Yokohama in Japan in 2013 Tokyo had made a pledge of US$32 billion (N$512 billion) in public and private sector funding, which included US$1.4 billion (N$22.4 billion) in overseas development assistance to Africa.
“Under TICAD V Namibia benefited in the areas of education, infrastructure development, trade, horticulture, water resource management, health, fisheries and climate change adaption, amongst others. Through TICAD VI, Namibia will continue to work together with Japan to forge solutions in the areas of trade, education, health, science and agriculture, amongst others,” Sibeya told New Era.
He noted that under TICAD Namibia has benefited tremendously. Projects that have been implemented include the development of a Logistics Master Plan, support for the One Region One Initiative and the one-stop borderpost between Namibia and Botswana.
“Namibia has and continues to benefit from the capacity building programmes offered under TICAD. In 2015, 17 short courses in the areas of agriculture and rural development, industrial and business development, health and education, as well as technical fields, like electrical and electronics, engineering and aviation security, were attended by 22 [Namibian] officials,” he noted.
The TICAD VI conference presents Tokyo with a rare opportunity for top Japanese business executives to gain a first-hand assessment of business opportunities, considering that Africa is becoming an increasingly attractive market, with its population projected to double to 2 billion by 2050.
More and more Japanese companies are thus eyeing the African continent.
According to the Japan External Trade Organisation the number of Japanese companies in sub-Saharan Africa increased since 2012 by almost 30 percent to 269 in 2015.
Still, Japanese companies face challenges from global powers, such as China, the EU and the US, as these economic powerhouses have started initiatives similar to TICAD and have been aggressively expanding their market share in Africa.
Particularly formidable is China. Beijing launched the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000 that focuses mainly on development projects. Previously, Beijing had offered US$60 billion in assistance to the African continent.
The US$30 billion (N$480 billion) committed recently by Japan through Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – on top of the US$32 billion (N$512 billion) that Tokyo pledged to Africa in 2013 – now brings Japan’s total commitment to an astronomical N$992 billion.
The sum pledged by Tokyo will be used in public and private sector support for infrastructure development, education and healthcare expansion in Africa.