Japan is convinced that Africa should have ownership of its own development and that the private sector is essential for the continent’s economic progress. These views would be embodied in the latest (seventh) iteration of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad 7), to be held in Yokohama from August 28 to August 30.
“We respect the ownership of Africa [of this process]; that is why the AU [African Union] is the co-convenor [of Ticad 7],” affirmed Japanese Embassy Minister Counsellor Shuichiro Kawaguchi in a media briefing on Wednesday. “Japan does not want to marginalise the continent.”
“The most important topic is business cooperation between Africa and Japan and all over the world,” he pointed out. “We like to initiate global relations from Japan.” The development of intra-African trade was very important. The more trade there was between African countries, the greater the investments Japanese companies would be likely to make on the continent.
“Ticad will also be very important for promoting tourism,” he noted. It was a very high profile event in Japan. “Each African Embassy will [also] be promoting its [national] exports.”
“African countries have to develop their own businesses,” he emphasised. “And Japanese business is also important, especially with regard to investment.”
He noted that success in development involved marrying imported technologies with local cultures and indigenous experience and knowledge. This is what Japan had done during the nineteenth century.
Ticad 7 would have three main pillars. These were: the promotion of economic transformation and improving business environments and institutions by means of innovation and the involvement of the private sector; facilitating resilient and sustainable societies for human security; and, peace and stability.
An aim of Ticad was to move African countries away from being dependent on aid to becoming self-reliant through trade. But Japan was going to continue with aid programmes, because some African countries still need them, he assured.
The first Ticad was held in 1993, in Tokyo, with subsequent Ticads taking place at five-year intervals. In 2013, at Ticad 5, this was changed to three-year intervals and Ticad 6, in 2016, became the first to be held in Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Ticad process was launched not long after the end of the Cold War. The focus from the beginning was on developing Africa. “We thought we could learn from the development of Asian countries,” explained Kawaguchi. “So we invited all the African leaders. That first Ticad was a great success.” It was, in fact, the first such initiative between a non-African power and the states of the continent. While Ticad was originally a purely Japanese initiative, Ticad 7 was being co-organised by the AU, the United Nations (UN), the UN Development Programme and the World Bank as well as Japan.