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

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

[INTERVIEW]

H.E. Mr. François OUBIDA
Ambassador of Burkina Faso and president of the TICAD committee among the Africa Diplomatic Corps.

Mr. Maruyama Norio
Ambassador, Director General, African Affairs Department (MOFA)

H.E. Mr. François Oubida, Ambassador of Burkina Faso and president of the TICAD committee among the Africa Diplomatic Corps. (ADC) and Mr. Maruyama Norio, Ambassador, Director General, African Affairs Department (MOFA) share their insight on strengthening Japan-Africa partnership through TICAD with JAPAN and the WORLD magazine.


—The first TICAD took place in 1993. What were the motivations behind it?

Mr. Maruyama Norio:
In 1990, after the end of the Cold War, Africa suffered several crises. The socio-economic development perspective in Africa became rather pessimistic. While some donor countries that were supplying financial assistance to Africa cited aid fatigue, Japan remained optimistic. In launching the TICAD process, our goal was to address the necessity to remain committed to the development of Africa as its partner. After 25 years, this partnership still exists, and we have reconfirmed our motivation to promote African ownership. We believe in Africa.

—How was TICAD first welcomed by African countries?

H.E. Mr. François Oubida:
Since 1993, TICAD has been a source of new hope for Africa because our governments regard Japan as a good guide for achieving socio-economic development.

Since 1993, TICAD has been a source of new hope for Africa because our governments regard Japan as a good guide for achieving socio-economic development.

TICAD is the right platform where real partnership can be achieved. Japan is a country that is willing to enforce our policies to ensure a successful outcome. Therefore, TICAD has garnered strong expectations since the very beginning.

—Why did you feel that it was the right time to host TICAD in Africa?

H.E. Mr. François Oubida:
We think that TICAD should go beyond the governments to pull together our people, civil society, academics, and private sector. Currently, the issue on our agenda is industrialization. So, the government cannot act alone. We need the private sector to get involved. The adoption of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 in 2013 has guided us in the establishment of the main goals, which were consistent to the first ten years of the program and included the transformation of the African economy through industrialization.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe co-hosted a welcome reception in Yokohama with Ms. Fumiko Hayashi, Mayor of Yokohama City, inviting representatives of the countries and organizations participating in the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) on May 31, 2013. / Credits: Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe co-hosted a welcome reception in Yokohama with Ms. Fumiko Hayashi, Mayor of Yokohama City, inviting representatives of the countries and organizations participating in the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) on May 31, 2013. / Credits: Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet.

We want to make sure that we can tackle all the challenges that African countries are facing right now and expose the Japanese private sector to the opportunities on the African continent. The movement of investors to Africa is a way to see TICAD shift from a platform of assistance to a platform for partnership and business. This will make a difference in the years to come. We should recall that this approach started during TICAD V, where our goal was to get more Japanese investors to invest in Africa. Many initiatives, including the ABE initiative, were taken on with the objective to bridge the business and investment relations between Japan and Africa, breaking the barriers of language, culture, and everything that may hold back the Japanese from coming to Africa. In that sense, in Nairobi, the key activity during the summit will be the high-level dialogue, which is scheduled to take place as a plenary session on August 28. This dialogue will be prepared during a forum hosted by the Kenyan Government on August 26th to 28th, 2016. The private sector will take this opportunity to coordinate their views and speak as one to the head of state and government during the dialogue. The aim of the co-organizers is to setup some guidelines for this dialogue and make it action-oriented.

We want to make sure that we can tackle all the challenges that African countries are facing right now and expose the Japanese private sector to the opportunities on the African continent.

Another reason is that more African people will be directly exposed to TICAD and will get a better knowledge of what kind of opportunities Japan has to offer to them. While, on the other hand, the Japanese side will be matched to a wider number of African business representatives and get practical experience in Africa.

Mr. Maruyama Norio:
On the other hand, I have to say that the Japanese people still have little understanding of how big Africa is. The distance between the western part and the eastern part is more than 6,000 km2. That is why now is the right moment to bring the Japanese private sector to Africa in order to make them realize the enormous amount of potential that exists on the African continent. This is one of the reasons I welcome the tenure of TICAD in Africa.

That is why now is the right moment to bring the Japanese private sector to Africa in order to make them realize the enormous amount of potential that exists on the African continent.

—In terms of organization, how is Japan working with Kenya to make the conference successful?

Mr. Maruyama Norio:
This is the first time we are holding TICAD in Africa, so we need to have good coordination with the host country. We will continue to have a lot of consultations with Kenya, especially on how to organize big events with high-level attendees in the Japanese way, which means to do everything with meticulous preparation as we do in Japan. To achieve that, we need a 300-person Japanese logistic team in Nairobi to make sure that TICAD VI is successful from the logistical point of view. We also want to make sure that some Japanese technology is applied with confidence and provide the utmost comfort. We are grateful to Kenya, the host country, for joining us in the Japanese way of preparation.

We are grateful to Kenya, the host country, for joining us in the Japanese way of preparation.

H.E. Mr. François Oubida:
The TICAD V preparatory Senior Official Meeting was held in Burkina Faso and we really enjoyed the Japanese way of coordinating the event. All of the previous TICAD summits were hosted in Japan by the Japanese government and were well coordinated and organized. We wish to benefit from this wealth of experience in Nairobi. So far, many joint meetings were held between Japan, the co-organizers, and the host country to make sure everything goes smoothly.

—You just mentioned that there is some effort that needs to be made on the African side to promote the Private-Public Partnership (PPP). Does the Japanese government try to push the private sector to be a little bit more active?

Mr. Maruyama Norio:
We have to analyze what are the barriers that keep the Japanese investors from going to Africa for business. My analysis is that Japanese companies are very cautious to take the risk. Hence, we need to inform them on how we, the government, can help them to reduce that risk. When the Japanese private sector says that there is no counterpart or adequate person in Africa that understands the Japanese way of doing business, we should help by providing such a person by the means of programs, such as the Africa Business Education (ABE) initiative, which are a combination of scholarship and internship. When they say there is too much insecurity, we help them by constantly updating them about the security situation. When they say there is less predictability in doing business in Africa, we try to build legal frameworks, such as investment protection agreements. We also show them our availability to tackle any kind of trouble they may encounter while doing business in Africa.

—For the first time, TICAD will welcome other countries to participate. France, for example, will be sending over 20 companies. How does Africa and Japan welcome this triangular participation?

H.E. Mr. François Oubida:
Many of our businesses have already established good relations with other businesses and other countries. This allows for the spread of business confidence, and also the widening of the networks of foreign companies through which Japanese companies could establish branches on the African continent if they deem it better for them. It is then easier for a domestic company to get into a partnership with Japan using a channel of existing partnerships. In that way, we can also build trust among the companies, see how we can connect them, and push businesses to expand into Africa.

Mr. Maruyama Norio:
The private sector will be the main actor of TICAD VI. This will be an historical event, since the private sector will be in the driver’s seat with country leaders to discuss the key development agenda. This will be also an excellent opportunity for the Japanese private sector to meet the African private sector in order to match their supply and demand needs. Prime Minister Abe had already started this initiative two years ago by bringing a number of CEOs to Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Côte d’Ivoire with this same purpose.
 
The triangular cooperation has a lot of potential. TICAD VI, with the participation of more than 150 Japanese private companies, will offer an ideal opportunity for the business people of the world who wish to do business in Africa with Japanese companies. For example, Brazil has strong ties with Japan, which gives a good perspective of successful triangular cooperation, especially in Portuguese speaking African countries. The inclusive nature of TICAD will surely help to further promote the triangular cooperation among partners.

Did you know?

  • TICAD VI is the first to be held in Africa and will alternate between Japan and Africa going forward.
  • 5,000 delegates are expected to attend the event.
  • Originally held every 5 years, the event will be held every 3 years starting in 2016.
  • In a 5 year span, starting in 2008, Japan built 1,321 elementary and middle schools, improved 4,778 healthcare and medical facilities, and provided safe water to additional 10.79 million people.
  • TICAD has representatives of not just Japan and African countries, but also international organizations, partner countries, private companies and civil society organizations.


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