Japan recommits to support Africa

JAPAN remains committed to assisting Africa to solve the problems impeding its development.

It is in furtherance of that goal, that it has brought forward the holding of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD-6) to August this year, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mr. Norio Maruyama, Director-General of the African Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, reiterated this commitment in Tokyo yesterday, when addressing a group of Journalists from various African countries who are on a tour of the country under the auspices of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

He said the Prime Minister of Japan would deliberate with the African leaders expected to attend, including Ghana’s President, John Dramani Mahama, to agree on strategies to effectively tackle the continent’s problems.

Mr. Maruyama said even though the TICAD 6 was originally slated for 2018, certain crisis situations that had emerged since the five-yearly conference was last held in 2013, necessitated the holding of the sixth conference this year.

He mentioned three main challenges confronting the continent: the drastic drop in oil revenue for African countries, the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus and the increase in violent extremism.

To tackle these challenges, Mr. Maruyama said Japan had proposed to assist in the adoption of policies towards economic stabilisation, technology transfer and human resource development.

“The economic challenges many African countries are facing have made the situation volatile and urgent steps need to be taken to stop it from further worsening,” he said, adding that more and young people are becoming belligerent, while many young women were also facing social challenges.

Japan, he said, would help develop policies and programmes towards ensuring economic stability, and the promotion of vigorous industrialisation.

In that regard, the Japan government was involving the business sector in the conference to encourage them to assist Africa through investments and other areas.

As a way of tackling the social instability issue, Mr. Maruyama indicated that his country would support in instituting vocational training for young people, including the females, to empower them.

“We have to work out strategies to empower them because when gainfully engaged, they would not involve themselves in disastrous ventures.”

On why the decision to hold the conference on African soil this year, he said: “It is Africa’s conference and we want the people to know what is happening”.

Mr. Maruyama said preparatory works had already been done and the three areas agreed upon at the ministerial level, and the leaders’ meeting in August would be to endorse the plans for full implementation.

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) was initiated by Japan in 1993, right after the end of the Cold War to assist Africa in solving some of its challenges.

The first conference, TICAD I, was held in Tokyo in October 1993. This was when the focus of the developed countries had shifted to former republics of the Soviet Union, coupled with “donor fatigue,” when the international community was showing signs of losing interest in Africa and African development.

Organised through the cooperation of the United Nations and Global Coalition for Africa (an NGO), the first TICAD attracted participants from 48 African countries, including five heads of state.

The Tokyo Declaration on African Development, adopted at TICAD I, put aid and development in Africa back on the international agenda.

At a time of growing Afro-pessimism, when many people were starting to suspect that African countries would never develop no matter how much assistance was provided, Japan’s initiative as one of the largest donor countries was a vital part in the efforts to keep the assistance flowing.

Jim MaCauley,
Tokyo, Japan

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