Interviews & Articles
TICAD7 Foreign Minister Kono’s article contributed to Les Echos (France)
(August 28, 2019)
「Title: A New Stage in Japan-Africa Partnership」
The Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) will be held in Yokohama from August 28 to 30. Since 1993, Japan held TICAD six times and promoted discussions on Africa’s development.
TICAD VI held in Nairobi in 2016 provided an opportunity for further strengthening business ties between Africa and the Japanese businesses that accompanied Prime Minister Abe.
In Africa, a high unemployment rate among young people lurks behind its high economic growth and population increase. In particular, the Sahel region faces serious challenges related to refugees, young people driven towards extremism, and more. Economic diversification is needed to tackle this situation.
The population increase will lead to an expansion of the African market and more young people in the workforce. In addition, trades between African countries will surge under the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This in turn will stimulate Africa’s further economic growth and enable to access the market of 1.3 billion consumers.
Africa is not only a recipient of assistance but also a promising investment destination for Japanese companies. Yamaha Motor has expanded their business in Africa by developing its fishing industry and promoting its industries. This company has also made safe drinking water more accessible in eight African countries, and conducts trainings of local staff. Furthermore, Japanese-style KAIZEN is increasingly being practiced in Africa as a method of raising quality and productivity.
The upcoming TICAD7 will discuss challenges that deter some Japanese companies from expanding into Africa. In particular, it will discuss solutions for overcoming such challenges through developing human resources and improving business environment.
In the area of human resource development, Japanese companies have a strength, namely, they can leverage their human resource development experiences gained in China and Southeast Asia—regions where they have expanded their businesses before, and apply it to Africa. Since 2014, African youths have participated in Japan’s industrial human resource development initiative called, “The ABE Initiative.” They acquire skills by studying at Japanese graduate schools and participate in internships at Japanese companies. Those who have completed the program and returned to their countries serve as a bridge for business between Japan and Africa. For example, an intern at a manufacturer of surge protective devices, Otowa Electric, has prompted the company to promote its products in Rwanda.
At TICAD7, business will be at the center of the agenda, and there will be opportunities for direct dialogues between African leaders and the Japanese business circle. Moreover, further business expansion is expected through collaboration between Japanese companies and European countries, including France, as well as between Japanese companies and African partners. Toyota Tsusho has already acquired CFAO S.A. and is expanding business in the field of medicine, health, education, and environment. Furthermore, Japan and France are promoting a bilateral cooperation in Africa in three areas; sustainable development, health, and safety.
Unlike other partnership forums with Africa, TICAD features an inclusive and open framework participated by a variety of other actors in addition to African countries. At this year’s G7 Biarritz Summit, the main agenda includes partnership with Africa and a sustainable development of the Sahel region. The Government of Japan will coordinate with the Government of France such that the achievements made from G20 Osaka summit in June leading up to the G7 can be shared with African countries at TICAD7.
TICAD7 will provide companies with a chance to strengthen partnerships with Africa, taking advantage of side events, some of which will be organized by third parties including European countries such as France.
This article was published in Les Echos “online edition” on August 27 and Les Echos on August 28, 2019.