The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will hold the seventh conference Aug 28-30 in Yokohama. TICAD7 will discuss three key themes upon which economic transformation and improvements in business environment and institutions are based. These themes include (i) private investment and innovation, (ii) the promotion of resilient and sustainable society for human security, and (ii) peace and stability.
The key feature of the conference is the inclusiveness of the stakeholders in the conference, which include international organizations such as the United Nations (U.N.), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank (WB), and the regional organization of the African Union Commission (AUC). Furthermore, African countries, private sector, civil society and others participate in the conference.
Through the 26-year history since TICAD’s inception in 1993 on Japan’s initiative, Africa’s economies have advanced through different stages of development and TICAD’s role has changed as well, where Japan’s assistance to Africa also shifted its emphasis from government development assistance to economic development. In fact, the TICAD is a unique form of the soft power that can play a crucial role in enabling the African continent to realize its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030 and 2063 Agenda’ aspirations. Africa 2063 Agenda includes realizing shared prosperity and well-being, unity and integration, free citizens and expanded horizons, full potential of women and youth, and with freedom from fear, disease and want. These aspirations are part and parcel of the TICAD’s goals human security; peace and stability.
Africa has abundant resources and enormous potential for economic growth. It attracts great interest from the private sector. The private sector will play a crucial role in Japan’s efforts to assist in Africa’s transition to a new industrial structure. The Japanese private sector will actively participate in creating Africa’s future through transforming its economies through beneficiation from Africa’s natural and human resources to achieve manufacturing, industrialization and value addition, as well as raising productivity and competitiveness of the African continent.
Of course, the private sector will not be capable to meet all of Africa’s needs, so there is a great expectation for a strengthening of public-private partnerships to expand the scope of businesses. In this respect, it is worth noting that at TICAD VI, in Nairobi , Kenya, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised that over the three years from 2016 to 2018, Japan would invest approximately $30 billion in public-private partnerships for the future of Africa centering on developing quality infrastructure, promoting resilient health systems and laying the foundations for peace and stability. These measures develop human resources to empower 10 million people in the African continent.
Assuring the importance of the TICAD, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, in an interview with the widely read Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram on Aug 26, stated that “economy, society, peace, stability and developing the human resources” are principal topics on the agenda for discussion at the conference.
Two messages can be delivered to TICAD 7, the first: the Japanese private sector has huge opportunities for investment in the African continent. The business environment in Africa is very encouraging, in this respect. Africa’s population is 1.2 billion, which is a huge market and African countries are committed to liberalize intra-Africa trade through establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Furthermore, the infrastructure in Africa still needs huge investments which is where the Japanese private sector can play a major role.
Second, one of the key areas TICAD should focus on further is empowering women in Africa. In this regard, there are around 600 million hard working and struggling women in the African continent. This huge number of women is a valuable asset and rich resource for the continent. These women are a source of immense energy and potential that should be efficiently empowered. According to the Women in Africa (WIA) initiative, which is the first international platform dedicated to the economic development of leading and high potential African women, in a few years, Africa has become the first continent of female entrepreneurship; women in Africa represent half of the population and produce 62% of economic goods but only 8.5 are salaried. An exchange program for African and Yokohama businesswomen has taken place since TICAD V in 2013, with African businesswomen visiting the city each year to interact with female entrepreneurs to work on supporting career advancement for women and establishing business networks in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, dedicating further funds to support women's programs in Africa will empower the entire continent and enhance the economic development thereof.
In conclusion, Africa has become a destination for competition among the regional powers across the globe; inter alia, China, EU and the U.S. However, TICAD can play a key role in industrializing Africa through promoting agro-industry expansion via enhancing the capacity of the private sector in Africa through technical support and sharing experiences.
The author is an international trade expert based in Cairo, Egypt.© Japan Today