Japan was convinced that Africa should have ownership of its own development and that the private sector was 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 30. “We respect the ownership of Africa [of this process]; that is why the African Union (AU) is the co-convenor [of Ticad 7],” affirmed Japanese embassy Minister Counsellor Shuichiro Kawaguchi in a recent media briefing. “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 was 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.
The conference would follow on from the Japan-Africa Public–Private Forum that was held in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, last year. Cohosted by Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko and South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies, with the keynote address delivered by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, this event was evaluated by Tokyo as extremely successful. Japan pledged $30-billion to Africa over three years, from both the public and private sectors.
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.
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 needed them, assured Kawaguchi.
One aspect of Japan’s aid policy was its Grant Assistance for Grassroots and Human Security Projects. In South Africa, a beneficiary of this was the PinkDrive initiative, a mobile specialised clinic, focused on the early detection of breast and cervical cancer and basic infant services. It was sponsored by the Japanese embassy and fitted with medical equipment supplied by Fujifilm. It provided cancer screening for women who did not have medical aid.