In 1993, the Japanese government in cooperation with the United Nations, organized the first TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) talks, as a way for heads of state, international organizations, private corporations and other groups to meet together to discuss the needs and future of Africa. Additional conferences have been held on a regular basis since then, and the forum has established a track record of improving social and economic conditions in Africa through grant aid, technical assistance and other means.

This August, Yokohama hosted TICAD 7, which was attended by presidents and other representatives from over 30 African nations. Compared to previous sessions, this one placed greater emphasis on private sector investment, especially in infrastructure and manufacturing development. Businesses in Japan have lagged behind their competitors in China in investing in Africa, and business organizations such as Japan’s Keidanren have begun pushing for firms to recognize the potential for partnerships.

The day after the TICAD 7 meetings finished in Yokohama, several visiting diplomats and scholars came to Tokyo for an additional event for the public. Titled “A New Vision for Africa,” the international, interfaith event was organized by Tokyo’s Sophia University, the lay Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, the Buddhist Rissho Kosei Kai, and with the support of the Embassy of Italy in Japan. Speakers from Africa, Europe and Japan came to talk about the changes that have been achieved in Africa over the past two decades, and how development needs have evolved in that time from aid to investment.

Among the speakers at the event was Jane Zinenani Skambayawo Gondwe, a member of Sant’Egidio from Malawi. In her talk, “A Cry for Africa,” she discussed the transformation that Africa has undergone in the past decades. “In the past, Africa was considered a land which was to be exploited by other people from other places, who only wanted to enrich themselves in their home countries.” Now, however, through the work being done by Sant’Egidio, with the support of other nations, great strides have been made to provide better education and healthcare, ensure human rights, and promote coexistence between all nations and cultures of Africa. “We have a great opportunity, with Japan, Italy and Africa,” Ms. Gondwe said, “if we work together for a new vision.”

An additional talk was delivered by Minister of Development and Planning of Lesotho, Tlohelang Aumane. He noted that while increased investment from Japan would be of great benefit to the countries of Africa, it must be conducted in a responsible manner. “This forum seeks to ensure that we leave no-one behind,” Mr. Aumane said. “That while the different governments of Africa and Japan are negotiating development, that we involve the people.” He stressed the need for greater cooperation, while also noting how views of Africa are often oversimplified from outside. “At most forums, people talk of Africa as a country, like Japan. Yet Africa is made up of more than 50 countries, each with different cultures, which makes it difficult for one to say they understand Africa.”

Mr. Fini went on to outline the EU’s plan for working with Africa in the coming years, in particular the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The Alliance is a plan for increasing the role of the private sector in order to boost investment and “create 10 million jobs in Africa in the next five years alone.” In addition, it will direct more investment toward education and technical skills, and will work toward creating sustainable economic integration between the two continents.

Looking toward the future of Africa, Mr. Aumane stressed the importance of mutual cooperation between African nations, and between Africa and outside nations. “As we promote TICAD, we ensure that Africa helps Japan as well as Japan assists Africa, because this is a win-win situation. When investors from Japan invest in Africa, they also benefit.” Previous rounds of overseas investment in Lesotho had created thousands of new, high-quality jobs and the nation is looking forward to inviting more overseas investors. “And when we say investors”, he notes, “we include universities and anyone else who would be interested in investing in our country.”

Following Mr. Aumane’s talk was a discussion by Khalid Boudali, vice president of the African Union, about the need for peaceful conflict resolution in Africa and for coexistence between cultures and religions in order to achieve stability. He described how the path toward African development needs to be people-oriented and look toward future sustainability, rather than the short-sighted exploitation of resources that has occurred in the past. Furthermore, he noted that “Africa’s development in the near future is based in particular on the achievements and the aspirations of youth and women.”

He also pointed out that the needs of Africa are not unique in the world, “it should be noted that emerging countries offer a useful lesson for developing countries. The implementation we require involves the directed efforts of all sectors, of government working in equal cooperation with the private sector and civil society.” Detailing which areas need to be the focus of development investment, Mr. Boudali continued, “We need to invest in Africa’s people. The youth especially are our most precious resource. Others areas are food and health, access to housing, water and sanitation, the development of quality education and the support of science, technology, innovation and research.”

Next was a discussion by Francisco Fini, chargé d’affaires ad interim of the delegation of the European Union to Japan. Speaking about the EU’s new vision for Africa, he stressed how important it is that the rest of the world take a new approach toward development. Quoting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, he began, “To speak of the future, one must speak of Africa, Europe’s twin continent. We have to stop seeing this relationship through the sole prism of betterment aid. Such an approach is beyond inadequate. Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnership, and Europe needs this partnership just as much.”

Mr. Fini went on to outline the EU’s plan for working with Africa in the coming years, in particular the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The Alliance is a plan for increasing the role of the private sector in order to boost investment and “create 10 million jobs in Africa in the next five years alone.” In addition, it will direct more investment toward education and technical skills, and will work toward creating sustainable economic integration between the two continents.

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