Interviews & Articles

(Contribution to Le Soleil, a daily newspaper in Senegal)

January 11, 2021

Following my visit to Africa last December, I am once again back on the continent. This is the first time that a Japanese Foreign Minister has visited six African countries within the space of two months. I am very pleased to be able to visit Senegal this time, which is the first visit to this country by a head of Japanese diplomacy in ten years.

Japan will play a leading role, hand in hand with African countries and other partners, in establishing a new rule and order for the post-COVID-19 era. I would like to take this opportunity of my visit to African countries to practice my "diplomacy with a sense of caring and robustness" in Africa, particularly in the three aspects mentioned below, all the more because we are going through an unprecedented crisis that the spread of COVID-19 in the world represents.

African Development

The first aspect of Japan's initiatives is its cooperation for African development. Japan launched the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in 1993, the first of its kind in the world, and has been actively supporting African-led development efforts under the basic philosophy of ownership of Africa itself and partnership of the international community. The Senegal-Japan Vocational and Technical Training Center (CFPT), a symbol of the friendship between Japan and Senegal, is an excellent example demonstrating the quality of Japanese cooperation in human resources development and technology transfer.

With regard to health and medical care in particular, we have been focusing our efforts on establishment of health and medical systems and development of human resources in Africa, with the aim of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) that would enable everyone to have access to medical care. The true value of Japan's cooperation has been brought to light in the fight against COVID-19. Based on the principle of Human Security, Japan will continue to support African countries in their fight against COVID-19 with a view to achieving UHC.

TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. Looking ahead to this conference, Japan will vigorously support African-led development, while addressing various challenges brought into sharp relief by the pandemic that African countries are facing, including strengthening of health and medical systems.

Economic Relations

The second aspect of Japan's efforts is the promotion of businesses. Japan will support the recovery of African economies affected by COVID-19 and work to strengthen economic ties between Japan and Africa towards the post-COVID-19 era.

Underpinned by strong growth in its young and abundant human resources as well as its rich natural resources, the African economy has an extremely high potential. Certainly, COVID-19 has brought about considerable impacts on the global economy, including in Africa. At the same time, however, the pandemic could also serve as an opportunity to promote structural change in the economy and create new business opportunities. The African Continental Free Trade Area, which just entered into its operational phase this January, could be a catalyst for this change.

In fact, Japanese companies are taking an enthusiastic look at the African continent. Here in Senegal, in February last year, the Government of Japan dispatched a joint public-private mission to promote trade and investment. A large number of Japanese companies took part in it. Following up on the mission, we are already seeing new companies joining around 20 Japanese companies that are already established in Senegal in starting up businesses in this country. The Government of Japan will continue to encourage Japanese companies to expand trade and invest in Africa, based on the outcome of TICAD 7, which focused on promoting businesses between Japan and Africa. 

Peace and stability

Peace and stability constitute the third aspect of Japan's contribution. It is a fact that conflicts, political unrest, terrorism and violent extremism still threaten peace and stability in some parts of Africa. In the Sahel, a region contiguous to Senegal, terrorist threats have increased in recent years.

In this context, Africa itself is committed to achieving peace and stability with the goal of "Silencing the Guns" under the auspices of the African Union. I would like to pay tribute to Senegal for the important role it plays through its contribution to peacekeeping operations of the United Nations and regional organizations as well as to the organization of the Dakar International Forum for Peace and Security in Africa.

Under the banner of a "New Approach for Peace and Stability in Africa (NAPSA)" announced at TICAD 7, Japan will support (1) African-led prevention, mediation and reconciliation efforts as well as peacekeeping operations; (2) strengthening of institutions and governance; and (3) resilience of local communities as well as the prevention of youth radicalization, while respecting the ownership of African countries.

Bringing greater stability and prosperity to Africa

The key to the stability and prosperity of the international community lies in dynamism created by the encounter between two continents: Asia achieving remarkable growth on the one hand, and Africa with great potential on the other. Japan hopes to nurture and enrich the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Asia and Africa, to make this vast area a place where freedom, the rule of law and market economy are respected, free from force or intimidation.

It is from this perspective that Japan is working to achieve a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific." We are confident that the importance of the values embodied in this vision can be well recognized among Africans living in a continent that is one of the world's fastest growing economic centers. Japan will continue its efforts in Africa to ensure (1) maritime order based on the rule of law; (2) economic prosperity through enhanced connectivity and economic partnership; and (3) peace and stability, including in the area of combating terrorism and piracy. I believe that such efforts will certainly benefit both Japan and Africa.

By way of conclusion: Japan-Senegal relations

Senegal, a stable democracy, is an extremely important partner for Japan in pursuing its initiatives. Last year, Japan and Senegal celebrated together the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. I look forward to seeing our partnership further consolidated during my visit to Senegal based on the long-standing friendship between our two countries.

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