Japan-Africa—Hand in hand towards the future Part I

Japan-Africa—Hand in hand towards the future Part I

[INTERVIEW]

H.E. Mr. Belmiro José Malate
Ambassador of the Republic of Mozambique and chair of ADC TICAD committee

[INTERVIEW]

Mr. Murayama Norio
Director General of the Africa Affairs Department (MOFA)

H.E. Mr. Belmiro José Malate, Ambassador of the Republic of Mozambique and chair of ADC TICAD committee and Mr. Murayama Norio, Director General of the Africa Affairs Department (MOFA) share their insight on strengthening Japan-Africa partnership through TICAD with JAPAN and the WORLD magazine.


—The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) began as a Japanese initiative. The initial design was to create a consultative forum to provide development assistance to Africa. Since it’s launch in 1993, five conferences have been held in Japan. However, in 2018, TICAD will be held in Africa for the first time. What motivated this change?

Maruyama Norio:
First and foremost, ownership and partnership are the focus points of TICAD. As a partner, we are here to support the efforts of the African continent; we want to have a natural partnership with Africa to nurture its development. TICAD is by nature a development forum that includes many other international partners: we don’t necessarily see TICAD as a bilateral summit meeting with Africa. The basic nature of TICAD will remain the same regardless of the venue.

A major turning point for TICAD occurred in 2003, when nearly 30 head of states and head of nations of African countries participated in TICAD III. It is quite interesting to see how the expectations of TICAD have changed: the focus of developmental support became more oriented towards trade and investment. That is why the involvement of the private sector became more and more relevant to TICAD. This private sector component will also be an important element for the coming TICAD held in Africa.

When we started TICAD in 1993 we didn’t have the African Union Commission as a co-organizer as we do now. With the participation of the AUC, the whole nature of the relationship became much stronger. We decided to increase the frequency of the TICAD meetings from five to three years and to alternate the venue to meet our respective needs.

TICAD is not only a conference between nations. It comes with a lot of side events, which involve private sector, civil society and the local people. The first TICAD in Africa will surely be an exciting event.

Belmiro José Malate:
First, I want to indicate that we see the TICAD conference taking place in Africa as the direct result of the success of the TICAD process. It has achieved most of its initial goals, most importantly the placement of Africa in the international development agenda. Africa today is a very dynamic continent with many countries experiencing very rapid development. So we believe this is happening in recognition of the new dynamics that are ongoing in Africa. Additionally, we as Africans thought that we could also contribute to TICAD by hosting these summits in Africa. We believe that in this way, Africa can identify itself more with TICAD. We believe it will also enhance the ownership of the TICAD agenda by African countries. It is going to consolidate the partnership we have with Japan even further. As mentioned before, it is no longer about aid, it’s more about trade and investment. A TICAD meeting, which will take place in Mozambique next year, will open possibilities for participation of more business communities from Africa. It will also expose the great potentials that Africa has to offer to the Japanese political leadership, the business community and even the civil community of Japan. We are bringing TICAD to Africa.

—Parliamentary diplomacy’s role on strengthening bilateral relations has been growing over the past years. Good governance and democracy are also key conditions to any positive development. How have bilateral parliamentarian dialogues been encouraging trust and business opportunities for the Japanese private sector in Africa?

Maruyama Norio:
I think this aspect is particularly important for Japan because our government is a parliamentary government. There are close relations between members of parliament and the other political affiliates, so members of parliament have a very important role to play when it comes to bilateral relations. Their political commitments encourage the world of business. What they say about democracy counts a lot. I can’t imagine that we could successfully hold meetings with Africa without the parliamentary members.

Belmiro José Malate:
For the little time I have been involved with the TICAD process in the last five years, I can say that TICAD is much more than what it was 20 years ago. I have witnessed the importance of political engagement between Africa and Japan in which parliamentarians have played a very important role. By visiting a lot of African countries, they witnessed the developments and the changes of Africa, bringing back messages of hope from Africa back to Japan. Which in turn, helped the parliament to pressure the Japanese government to pay more attention to Africa. This is one way parliamentarians are contributing. On the other side, they have also been encouraging Japanese corporations and companies to go to the African continent. A lot of Japanese companies were still negatively influenced by the African pessimism era and unfortunately, as is the nature of the press, media mostly report about the bad stories.
So by doing that, parliamentarians were able to promote a better understanding of the current political situation in Africa and to explain that Africa is moving forward fast in the democratic process, strengthening its democracy. They also understood the economic and new economic dynamics of Africa, seeing the need to support Africa now more than ever, because it is taking off.

—When TICAD was created 20 years ago, Japan was recognizing the future significance of Africa. Since then, a lot of other countries have taken up interest in Africa and its resources. What is Japan’s stance towards this competition? How is Japan keeping up with the rapid growth and development of Africa?

Maruyama Norio:
We don’t consider the participation of other countries as competition, as you say, because it is complementary. We can complement others in the ways in which we excel, for example infrastructure. We are able to provide this type of high quality infrastructures. Why not go ahead and help where it is needed the most? But on the other hand, if this kind of high quality structure is not needed and another country wants to provide that, they should go ahead and do it. But they should always respect the ownership of Africa. If we can harmonize this process, this will be a win-win situation for everyone.

Belmiro José Malate:
First of all, we are all very encouraged by the way our economic cooperation with Japan is growing. A few years back, we hardly knew any Japanese companies, but if you go to Mozambique today, you will find that more than 10 Japanese companies are not only investing but also have their offices in Mozambique. You will find that many medium and small size companies are beginning to establish themselves in Mozambique. This kind of success can be witnessed in many other African countries as well – and one reason we were able to achieve this was through the TICAD process.

—In 2012, Japan and other co-organizers admitted the Commission of the African Union (AU) as a co-organizer. What is the role of the AU in the organization of the future TICAD summit? How do the AU and the African Diplomatic Corps (ADC) work together?

Belmiro José Malate:
The TICAD process is about the African continent, which has been working together in order to secure the development of the continent and to improve the life standards of the African citizens. In that respect the African Union plays a very important role. They came up with a number of programs designed to ensure that these goals of development are achieved. As TICAD is focusing on Africa, we needed to find a way to align the TICAD program of action with African priorities. So this is the number one responsibility. It is the task of the African Commission to ensure that our responsibility as African countries in the TICAD process is implemented. When it comes to the relationship between the African Union (AU) and the ADC, I can summarize it as coordination.

Maruyama Norio:
I fully agree with the Ambassador’s point. There is no conflict of interests between Japan and the African Union in regards to the development of Africa. As I mentioned previously, the whole nature of the relationship between Japan and Africa became much stronger after the participation of the AUC as a co-organizer. And I think that the participation of the ADC is one characteristic that defines the uniqueness of the TICAD process.

—During the past few years, the city of Yokohama has been very active, and is serving as a bridge between the cultures of Africa and Japan. How is the cultural dialogue between both regions evolving?

Maruyama Norio:
The active participation and valuable contributions from the City of Yokohama have greatly assisted in the development of the whole TICAD process. The city is very engaged in deepening Japan’s relationship with Africa. Their contribution is more than cultural, it is encouraging that the city of Yokohama, with its expertise in terms of urbanization, is on board. Yokohama already has agreements with cities in Asia to help them overcome challenges of urbanization. I’m quite sure that the rapid development and the changes in demographics in Africa could cause huge problems. We need to make preparations to quickly discuss how to address these kinds of issues in TICAD. We will be grateful for the contribution of the City of Yokohama in this area.

Belmiro José Malate:
What I can say is that we definitely consider Yokohama as a home away from home. They have been very welcoming and we have been participating in many events, which have been organized by the city of Yokohama at the last TICAD meeting. Through these events, we are influencing the young generation and teaching them about the importance of building cultural bridges between Japan and other countries particularly Africa. So to answer your question: yes, the dialogue is going to continue and it will grow even more.


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